Stephenson throws hat in commissioner ring

The contest to replace resigning North Kitsap Commissioner was set on its side this week, as one perceived frontrunner declined to seek the seat while another made a commitment to enter the race.

Sen. Phil Rockefeller, (D-Bainbridge Island) decided against running for the seat in order to stay in the legislature. But Kitsap County Treasurer Barbara Stephenson indicated that she would actively pursue the position.

“I am going to make a run for it,” Stephenson said on Thursday. “There are a lot of issues relating to the budget where I have a good understanding.”

Rockefeller announced his decision on Thursday, saying that he wanted to “stay where I am. There is still a lot I can do, and there are excellent opportunities for me to serve the public.”

Rockefeller, 68, was elected to the State Senate in 2004 after serving in the House of Representatives. He was named 2007 Legislator of the Year by the Washington Conservation Voters.

Stephenson, 54, was elected to a second term as treasurer in 2006, at which time she was unopposed. Prior to her election she serves as director of the Kitsap County United Way.

Stephenson’s abilities to manage budget issues and to win a countywide election work in her favor, as the appointed commissioner will presumably run for a full term in 2008. However, some Democratic Party members have questioned her party loyalty.

“I know who I am and what I am,” she said. “And I believe that I am a good Democrat. Besides, most of the issues the commissioners deal with are nonpartisan.”

Currently, Planning Commissioner Tom Nevins and activist Chris Van Dyk are declared candidates. Martha and Mary’s Director of Fund Development Robert Gelder and Poulsbo City Councilman Ed Stern are also considering the race.

All applicants will be reviewed by the Democratic Executive Committee, which will announce all candidates on June 4. The candidates will then attempt to win the votes of the approximately 90 precinct officers, who will select three names on June 18.

The remaining county commissioners will select one name from that list, presumably before Endresen’s June 28 resignation date. If they are unable to agree on a name Gov. Chris Gregoire will make a selection from the same list.

Anyone wishing to apply for the position should contact Party Chairman Carl Olsen (360) 698-6833 or Membership in the Democratic Party and residence in commissioner district 1 are the only legal requirements for any candidate.

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