Republican Kevin O'Sullivan and incumbent Democrat Bob Macleod are locked in a heated race for the $93,000-a-year job representing District 3 on Thurston County Commission.
The two are old foes. O'Sullivan held the commission seat from 1999 to 2002 as a Democrat, but was defeated by Macleod in a re-election bid. Now O'Sullivan, having switched to the GOP, wants his old job back.
"We need to return to open, responsive and inclusive government," O'Sullivan said.
Macleod said he should be re-elected to a second four-year term because he has the temperament to keep a cool head and analytical mind amid divisive discussions on a range of issues.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Olympian
"I have 35 years experience with a broad cross-section of community interests," said Macleod, a KGY radio news director for 27 years.
The race hinges on growth and land-use issues. Macleod opposes Initiative 933, a controversial property rights proposal on the Nov. 7 ballot; O'Sullivan supports I-933.
I-933 would allow claims for compensation from property owners who feel their land has been de-valued by zoning or other regulations imposed since 1996. If the government can't pay the cash, the regulation is waived.
O'Sullivan leads in fundraising. As of Sept. 11, he had raised $84,641 and spent $79,717, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission. Macleod raised $34,082 and spent $21,659, the PDC said.
An independent expenditure committee, Progress for Thurston, financed a mailer that backed O'Sullivan, but he has disclaimed involvement with the committee. Progress for Thurston received $25,000 from Thurston Affordable Housing Council, whose major contributor is Olympia Master Builders, according to the PDC.
In addition to opposing views on I-933, the two candidates differ on the style and role of a county commissioner. Macleod said he sees the post as a "no-nonsense steward of taxpayers' money" while O'Sullivan said he feels the job is to be a "public servant" who responds personally to constituents who need help.
Macleod, 79, of Olympia is critical of O'Sullivan, 51, who lives in the county outside of Tumwater, for being "impatient" with government processes and instead "jumping into polemics and rhetoric."
O'Sullivan's supporters, for their part, accused Macleod of being too old for the rigors of the job and for falling asleep at meetings - an allegation Macleod strongly denies.
Several controversies have already arisen in the race. O'Sullivan has dismissed any allegations of impropriety over his former ties with a skin treatment center in Seattle. He also scoffed at critics of his ties with Jamie Beletz of Tacoma, board president of Gateways for Youth and Families who also serves as O'Sullivan's campaign consultant. O'Sullivan is also a Gateways board member and was featured in an article in the group's newsletter in February.
An earlier skirmish over O'Sullivan's touting his law enforcement Purple Heart award mostly ended in a standoff. Macleod, a veteran, and some other area veterans said they were offended that O'Sullivan didn't make clear that his law enforcement Purple Heart was different from the military Purple Heart awarded members of the U.S. armed forces for combat injuries.
But O'Sullivan, who was injured during an arrest in 1982 when he was a Mukilteo police officer, and his supporters claim that the police Purple Heart is every bit as legitimate as the military one since both groups of recipients were hurt while protecting the public.
According to sources at Fort Lewis, the military Purple Heart is awarded nationally, while the law enforcement Purple Heart is given out by statewide or local chapters of the national group, the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Positions
Incumbent Bob Macleod, Democrat, and Kevin O'Sullivan, Republican
1. What makes you the more qualified candidate?
Macleod: One, I have 35 years experience in or conversancy with a broad cross-section of community interests: human services (I was one of the founders of Community Youth Services), local government, local commerce, schools and colleges, law enforcement priorities and the courts. Two, I have the analytical aptitudes and the concentration to participate at county and interjurisdictional meetings where competing priorities are examined and decisions made.
O'Sullivan: I served four years as the Thurston County Assessor, four years as Thurston County Commissioner. I'm the proud father of two children, a former law enforcement officer who was injured in the line of duty and received a Purple Heart. I'm committed to make sure our streets and neighborhoods remain safe.
2. How can Thurston County better manage growth?
Macleod: Determine the connections between imperative environmental sustainability (e.g. effective aquifer filtration); the reasonable co-dependence among county landowners and residents, together; and market demand for affordable housing.
O'Sullivan: We need a return to open, responsive and inclusive government. We can't manage growth by working backroom deals and politics-as-usual. We should be working collaboratively with all the stakeholders to make sure our streets and neighborhoods remain safe and our water and air remain safe to drink and breathe.
3. Where do you stand on I-933 and why?
Macleod: I support the Constitution, state law and the principles of property rights. Specifically, I am opposed to I-933. If passed, it would inhibit the county from adopting necessary land-use rules, of collective benefit, because of the threat of costly indemnity payments to some property owners. Equally important, the rush of "damage claims" ... even though many turned out to be without merit ... would exact a costly toll on the public's treasury just for the costs of the processing.
O'Sullivan: Asking me where I stand on I-933 is like asking where I stand on appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court. As our next county commissioner, I would have no responsibility for either decision. I-933 is a reaction to overreaching of local government. I'm
for fair and balanced growth.
4. Are there any places you would make changes in staff or programs if elected?
Macleod: I cannot generalize or say without specific study on individual subjects. That's the continuing role of the board of three commissioners ... to prioritize among all the services and the expressed needs of the departments, all competing for the finite revenue of the county. Within those confines, we do respond to departmental requests, a few FTE's here, a few there, throughout the year.
O'Sullivan: We need to return to open, responsive and inclusive government. We need a return to local government's primary purpose, which should always be to protect the health and safety of our youth and families. We should be working collaboratively to expand after school opportunities for children.
5. What would you do to alleviate jail overcrowding until the new satellite jail is built?
Macleod: In the four years I have been in office, the courts, the corrections department, and the county commission have come a long way in developing "problem-solving courts" ... remedial programs imposed on defendants (in less-than-capital crimes) that provide strict behavior without putting the county to the extreme expense of incarceration. Such programs are instrumental in allowing us to design a new jail that won't have the high expense of "revolving door" recidivism.
O'Sullivan: I would implement the discarded Veteran's Program and get the Crisis Triage Program to full capacity, as this would reduce the jail population by getting those who need mental health treatment to facilities that can provide them with that needed treatment. This would leave more room in our jails for real criminals and better protect our communities.
6. How would you reduce the county budget by $500,000?
Macleod: Expand on the concept of problem solving courts to reduce recidivism; place more pressure on the State and the Legislature to provide more funding (to the county) for state-mandated services; expand or extend the policy of county fee structures that fairly cover the costs of county services to the land-development community.
O'Sullivan: Performance audits would be required for all county departments; eliminate duplication of services in the county and reassign staff; implement Best Management Practices to create the highest levels of cost-efficient government. Thurston county commission
Bob Macleod, Democrat
Occupation: Thurston County commissioner since 2003, former KGY radio news director, 27 years
Political experience: Former aide to state Sen. Karen Fraser, five sessions, and Thurston County Commission, four years
Finances: Raised $34,082, spent $21,659
Key donors: Chehalis tribe; Olympia elections watchdog Jim Lazar; Art and Susan O'Neal of Olympia
Issues: "No on I-933"; healthy communities; active management of growth; integrity in government
Kevin O'Sullivan, Republican
Residence: Thurston County outside of Tumwater
Occupation: Police officer, Mukilteo, 1977-1985; grocery store owner, Steamboat Island, until last year
Political experience: Thurston County commissioner (Democrat), 1999-2002; Thurston County assessor, 1994-98
Finances: Raised $84,641, spent $79,717
Key donors: Lacey businessman Walter Cox; Chehalis tribe; Thurston County Republican Committee; Association of Thurston County Deputy Prosecutors
Issues: "Yes on I-933"; responding personally to citizens; private property rights advocate; open government