Win, lose, the race is worth running
Commentary by Martha Ireland
“WIN OR LOSE, I had an enjoyable time,” Bob Forde told those of us who gathered Tuesday evening at Clallam County Republican headquarters in Port Angeles.
We were waiting to hear the outcome of Forde’s campaign against incumbent District l Clallam County Commissioner Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness.
The initial count of votes cast in the Nov. 6 election didn’t produce the miracle his supporters had wished for, but it was what everyone expected from the start.
As party secretary, I was present June 14 when Clallam Republicans certified Forde, of Sequim, as their nominee.
The regular candidate filing period had closed without anyone filing to challenge Tharinger.
In partisan contests, parties have five days to fill vacancies in their states.
That special filing period was due to close the next day.
In 2006, Republicans failed to field a candidate to challenge District 3 Commissioner Mike Doherty, D-Port Angeles, who swept unopposed to a third consecutive four-year term.
In 2004, Democrats declined to challenge District 2 Commissioner Mike Chapman, R-Port Angeles, in his bid for a second term.
The major political parties have an obligation to give voters choices, said Fred Norton, then Clallam Republican Party chair.
One-by-one, Norton called on District l residents. One-by-one, we turned him down.
“Been there, done that,” I quipped, citing promises I’ve made to my husband, Dale, and my publisher, John Brewer.
When Bob Forde finally offered to stand in the gap, no one had any illusions about his chances.
Nevertheless, the precinct officers pledged their $l0,000 campaign fund to help Forde make a credible run.
The next day, Norton personally paid Forde’s $580 filing fee. Six weeks later, Norton died after heart surgery.
Bob Forde’s wife, Sue, moved up from party vice-chair to chair for the remainder of the year.
Candidate recruitment could be even tougher in 2008, when three North Olympic Peninsula county commissioner seats will be up for election.
Besides Chapman, the incumbents are Jefferson County Commissioners Phil Johnson, D-Port Townsend, and David Sullivan, D-Cape George.
Also up for election will be the entire 24th District state legislative delegation, which represents Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor county -- state Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam; and state Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim.
None of the North Olympic Peninsula county incumbents have ruled out seeking re-election.
But Chapman, who crossed party lines this year to endorse Tharinger, says there are many impediments to convincing people to run for office -- the time it takes to campaign; the effort and funding demands; requirements for submitting personal finances for public scrutiny; and considerable criticism if you’re elected.
Early in 2006, Chapman announced he would run for sheriff and would resign his commissioner seat if elected.
Om June 2006, he withdrew from the sheriff race and considered resigning as commissioner to pursue a full-time Christian ministry, but decided to serve out his term.
On Wednesday when I asked Chapman if he’ll seek re-election next year to a third four-year term, he replied, “I’m keeping my options open. I may, I may not.”
The longer he talked, the more he sounded like a candidate -- and a Republican candidate, at that.
“I would not run as a Democrat,” Chapman said.
“My preference would be to run as a Republican.”
“As long as there’s room in the Republican Party for Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, perhaps there’s room for me.”
If others file as Republicans, he may consider running as an independent.
“Should I choose to run next year, I would hope I wouldn’t be unopposed,” Chapman said.
“Choices are good.”
And despite losing, Forde has no regrets about having participated in what he calls “an interesting process.”
“I’m better off for having done it,” he said.
“We’re Americans -- running is the right thing to do.”
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