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The primary's heroes

September 16, 1998

For those candidates who weren't successful in Tuesday's primary election, today is a day of reflection, and in some cases, of sorrow and disbelief. As those who didn't prevail wonder whether it was their message that didn't connect with voters, or whether something as simple as the color of their yard signs turned people off, we have a few words on the subject.

Everyone who ran in Tuesday's primary, win or lose, did their fellow citizens the great service of giving them a choice. There is nothing worse for incumbents than uncontested races.

Without opposition, office-holders can begin to believe that they are too wise and too beloved for anyone to challenge, when the truth may be that would-be challengers analyzed the race and decided that the time and expense involved in campaigning weren't likely to yield a victory.

Beyond that, the primary election stirred the public's interest in some issues crucial to Washington County's future. From the candidates for county commissioner, we've heard proposals on how to deal with the water and sewer debt, but also on how to make sure the next wave of local growth is orderly.

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From the candidates for school board, we've heard suggestions on everything from implementing the new strategic plan to dealing with disruptive students. Some of the ideas made no sense, but they served as a starting point for a debate which should continue between now and November, on the following subjects:

Where is Washington County headed in the next century? Is the county doomed to see its farms gobbled up by suburban sprawl, its business parks filled with companies paying $8 an hour and its schoolchildren falling behind their peers around the state?

This is important stuff, and those who contended in the primary election campaign and who took the time to share their views in forums and door-to-door campaigns, did citizens a big favor by focusing their attention on these matters. For that, they deserve our deep appreciation and heartfelt thanks.

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