Dana, Somers split on what should matter for county

Dave Somers has earned a reputation as a staunch environmentalist during his time on Snohomish County Council.

Steve Dana, a past Snohomish city councilman and mayor, is trying to use the environmental label to unseat the Democratic incumbent in the Nov. 3 election.

Dana, a Republican, even wrote a recent blog post called “The Cost of Fish is Going UP!” In it, he accused Somers, a fisheries biologist, of supporting pricey projects to restore salmon habitat at the expense of farmland.

As much as Dana would like to talk about fish, Somers isn’t taking the bait.

Instead, he wants to talk about roads and the economy. Those are the messages Somers said he’s been getting from voters in the 5th council district covering the eastern county.

“The thing that I heard more about than anything is traffic, road improvements and transportation,” he said. “Mostly they talk about how long it takes (them) to get to work.”

Somers lists endorsements from the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties as well as the Sierra Club Cascade Chapter and Washington Conservation Voters to show his diverse appeal.

Dana said he isn’t against the environment, he’s just critical of Somers’ priorities.

“My preference is to consider people first,” he said. “To say I’m not a friend of the environment isn’t true.”

He added, “If all things are equal and there’s no harm done, then creating (fish) habitat’s a good thing.”

In his corner, Dana has endorsements from the Snohomish County Farm Bureau and property-rights advocates.

Somers said many of Dana’s criticisms about fish don’t hold water.

“He got his facts wrong on a number of cases,” he said.

Somers said he’s also on the same page with the county’s Agricultural Advisory Board, which is moving forward on a plan he submitted to map salmon habitat and farmland to decide which areas should be saved for each purpose.

Of course, there are other issues besides fish and farms.

To improve transportation in his district, Somers supports turning an abandoned rail line between Snohomish and the Eastside into a commuter rail line through a public-private partnership. He also plans to continue lobbying the state and federal government for more highway money. At the top of his project list are a U.S. 2 traffic bypass to clear up congestion in Monroe as well as safety improvements on highways 522 and 9.

Dana said improving those highways have been a priority for too long.

“As a member of the majority party in the county working with the majority party in the Legislature, why hasn’t (Somers) been able to do something already?” Dana asked. “If he can’t produce, maybe somebody else should get a shot at it.”

Dana believes that among voters’ biggest concerns are having a smaller, more efficient government.

In his opinion, the county council got it wrong when drafting the 2009 budget during Somers’ tenure as the council chairman.

“It wasn’t about making a county government more efficient, it was about saving jobs” for county employees, he said.

Dana has held office in the past. He was first elected to Snohomish City Council in 1989 and won a second term in 1993. During his time there, the city council elected him mayor three times.

He promised that his strong Snohomish connections wouldn’t prevent him from working for other parts of the district.

Dana, 59, attended the University of Washington for less than a year in 1968. Before and after that, he worked at a lumber mill. For two decades starting in 1971, Dana attended Everett Community College off and on, taking classes in Japanese, photography and electronics, among other subjects.

For the past 24 years, he and his wife have owned The Hub, a restaurant in Snohomish that previously belonged to Dana’s parents. He also commenting on local issues on a blog at www.nolossforwords.wordpress.com.

Somers, 56, graduated from high school in Napa, Calif., and majored in marine biology at the UW, where he played in the Husky marching band.

In the mid-1970s, his first job out of college was at the Verlot ranger station near Granite Falls. He later worked as a biologist for the Tulalip Tribes and managed the Pacific Watershed Institute, a nonprofit formed by the state.

Somers earned a master’s degree in forest ecology from the UW in 1995.

He won his first council term in 1997, but lost his bid for a second term to Republican Jeff Sax in 2001. Somers beat Sax in 2005.

State Public Disclosure Commission records show that Somers had raised $86,468 in campaign money, while Dana has raised $17,040, according to the commission’s Web site on Wednesday.

The county council post pays $102,779. The 5th council district includes Snohomish, Monroe, Lake Stevens, Sultan, Gold Bar, Index and Maltby.

Learn more about the candidates at www.davesomers.org or www.stevedana.us.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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