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Last Friday, Snohomish County Executive John Lovick stood next to Gov. Jay Inslee during the announcement of a commission to examine the Oso landslide.

It was a moment that summed up Lovick’s career, both in how far he’s come and the difficult work he now has to manage in Washington state’s third most populous county.

Lovick, a Democrat, was appointed executive last year to replace Aaron Reardon, a promising politician whose career imploded on allegations of an affair with a county worker and that records requests by his staff were politically motivated.

Now, Lovick has two challengers in Tuesday’s primary: Carolyn Eslick, the Republican mayor of Sultan, and James Robert Deal, a Democrat who is an attorney and anti-fluoride crusader. The top two will advance to the November general election.

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Since this is a special election to fill a vacated seat, the winner will also face election in 2015.

Ballots in the vote-by-mail primary must be postmarked by Tuesday.

Lovick has served as a trooper with the State Patrol, a state representative, Mill Creek City Council member and Snohomish County sheriff. He touts that experience as his selling point to voters.

“I know how to manage people,” said Lovick, 63. “I know how to get things done.”

He has a significant money advantage in the race, with nearly $88,000 in contributions.

There are 17 transportation-infrastructure projects Snohomish County needs, according to Lovick.

“At minimum, we need about a billion dollars for these projects,” he said.

And he wants to look at mental-health issues for a county jail where 10 people have died since 2010.

“The jail is not the place in our community for people to live with mental illness,” he said.

And Lovick will be waiting to hear what the landslide commission — in the wake of the March slide that killed 43 people — has to say about how to better avoid and respond toslides. The commission is not charged with determining accountability for any permitting or planning lapses.

Several family members of those killed, and others, have filed claims — precursors to lawsuits — against the state and Snohomish County.

The legal fallout from the slide is sure to absorb county officials for some time to come.

Eslick says she doesn’t see the county as having the leadership it needs.

Eslick, 64, is in her second term as mayor of Sultan, a town of about 4,500. She says her leadership style is suited for county executive.

“I bring to the table a lot of years of experience of collaborative leadership,” she said.

First on her mind: fiscal issues.

“We need to look at the budget and cut where we can cut,” she said. “And stop with big county salaries.”

Eslick says perpetrators of burglaries in the county aren’t getting penalties that are stiff enough. And she points to problems at the Snohomish County Jail as an issue that needs more leadership.

She has raised just over $10,000.

Deal, 67, has raised no money in the campaign.

“I think a campaign should be about something other than just the fact that John Lovick has been elected many times and has experience,” said Deal, who lives in Lynnwood.

Deal says he wants the county to raise its minimum wage incrementally over the next few years to reach $13 an hour. He wants to invest in fiber-optic Internet to create jobs and develop more public-transit options.

Another priority would be to make Snohomish County an organic county for farmers, meaning no genetically modified crops could be grown there.

“Our farmers would get rich,” he said. “We could brand it and export it all around the world.”

Joseph O’Sullivan: 360-236-8268 or Information from The Seattle Times archives is used in this story.

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