Waldo makes last minute switch, challenges Knobloch for Central Ward seat

John Waldo opts out of race against Barry Peters for a showdown with incumbent councilman.

In a surprise move Friday morning, John Waldo hopped lanes in the race for City Council, turning the overall competition on its head.

Waldo, a Winslow attorney, had announced in February his intention to run against environmental activist Barry Peters for the council's At-Large position.

But, with hours left on the filing deadline, Waldo leapt into the Central Ward race where he'll face incumbent Councilman Bill Knobloch and political newcomer Lauren Ellis. Peters will likely run unopposed unless someone filed late Friday.

"I got a lot of feedback from people who were very distraught that I was running against Barry," said Waldo on Friday. "They said 'you both seem like good guys, you both represent change and have good ideas' (and) that it was too bad two really quality people were running against each other."

Shifting from the At-Large seat - currently held by Councilman Nezam Tooloee, who will not seek reelection - to the turf of an incumbent seeking his third term will hopefully create necessary change, Waldo said.

"I don't know that Bill is the problem, but he's not the solution," said Waldo, a former Bainbridge Island Review reporter. "We need a fresh start."

Waldo said the council has been saddled by indecision since 2001, when Knobloch was first elected.

"Look at Ericksen-Hildebrand or the park bathroom," he said, referring to long-debated proposals to connect two downtown streets and build a new bathroom at Waterfront Park. "Those are two good examples of a pretty simple 'yes' or 'no' decision, but we can't even get there. People are frustrated that no decisions are being made. They want to see forward motion."

Knobloch disagreed that he's the rusty cog in the municipal machine.

"I think he's not reading the political tea leaves correctly," Knobloch said. "We certainly have disappointed the public, but he's (looking) at the present council and the present administration through a political looking glass that's not telling the whole story."

The whole story, Knobloch said, tells a tale of wide-spread conflict - within the council itself and between the council and the administration.

"Everybody's getting tarred with the same brush," Knobloch said.

Knobloch's campaign strategy likely will not change not that the race for his seat is a bit more crowded.

"I'll stand on my record," he said, citing his work to reduce speed limits on Miller Road, prevent a connection between Kallgren and Day roads, crafting an ethics ordinance and various budget actions through the years.

Ellis, who entered the race last month, also pledged to hold steady.

"It'll make the race more interesting," she said. "But it doesn't change the fact that I have a unique perspective from the other people running. (I'm) a woman, a young mother and a minority."

Ellis, 23, has a young daughter and is half-Japanese.

Waldo said he knows little about Ellis, who moved to the island last year, but doubted she is a viable candidate against Knobloch.

"I don't know Ms. Ellis, but (Bainbridge) has a number of historical precedents where bright, eager, able young people throw their hat in the ring and none have done very well," Waldo said, referring two candidates under 40-years old who ran unsuccessfully for the council over the past six years.

Peters, a retired business management consultant and co-founder of Sustainable Bainbridge, said he was "quite surprised" Friday by Waldo's announcement.

"I never would have guessed this outcome," he said Friday, only minutes after receiving an email from Waldo. "I've been grateful from the start that John and I believe in a clean and positive campaign with emphasis on discussing goals and our vision for the community. I wish him good luck in whatever he decides to do. I know he and Bill will have a lively debate."

Leaving Peters to run unopposed isn't necessarily a bad development for island politics, Waldo added.

"Some people who have run opposed in the past have been terrific," he said, citing Councilman Chris Snow's uncontested bid in 2005, former councilwomen Christine Rolfes' free ride to second term, and longtime councilwoman Lois Curtis, who was never challenged.

Waldo said he waited until the last filing day to make the switch to the Central Ward race after he could no longer ignore the chorus of voters encouraging him not to challenge Peters.

"Everything came to a crescendo this week," he said. "I just kept hearing people say, 'gee, I'm sorry you're running against each other.' That got me to rethink things. Then I asked my steering committee and they all said 'yeah, we'd feel a lot better if you ran against Bill.'"

Waldo estimates "only 5 percent" of the people he spoke to strongly hoped he'd defeat Peters.

The former opponents, Waldo said, agree on many key issues. Both candidates have stressed the need for environmental preservation and are advocates of a possible 'green building' ordinance to encourage or mandate earth-friendly development.

Waldo this week reported that he had raised about $5,000 in campaign funds over the last four months. He has spent about $1,200 on direct mailings and an advertisement in Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce's newsletter. Peters had raised over $4,400 by the end of last month and had spent about $440. Knobloch and Ellis have raised no funds for the 2007 council race. Ellis is opposed to campaign fundraising for council positions and has, on principle, pledged to accept no donations. Knobloch said this week he has not ruled out fundraising. His last fundraising campaign drew in almost $1,700 when he ran against John Doerschuk in 2005.

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