Thomas challenges Van De Wege’s seat

With high voter turnout expected Nov. 4 for the presidential election, Clallam County and its legislative district have a few high-profile spots of their own open to challenge.

Three state Legislature seats, a Clallam County commissioner seat, three county Superior Court judge positions and a Clallam County Public Utility District commissioner seat all have terms ending in 2008. Most incumbents have shown interest in re-election and, so far, only one has a challenger.

House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler has announced she will run for re-election. No candidate has yet filed against the Hoquiam Democrat with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. Sen. Jim Hargrove has announced his bid for re-election and so far no candidate has filed to run against him.

A Joyce Republican, Thomas Thomas, has thrown in his bid to challenge Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, for his spot in the state Legislature. Thomas owns Straitbroadband Communication with his wife, Lisa. He said he chose to run because Van De Wege is not committed to the position.

“I will not pull punches in this race; I believe we need a stronger voice for our communities in Olympia,” Thomas said. “My opponent, Kevin Van De Wege, has exhibited a total lack of competency.”

Thomas said he believes his business experience and ability to bring differing parties together on difficult issues qualify him for the job.

Van De Wege, who told the Gazette he definitely would run for re-election, said he has carried the same commitment to the position that he campaigned under two years ago when he defeated former Rep. Jim Buck, of Joyce, who has endorsed Thomas.

“This isn’t an easy job, it involves a lot of hours in and out of session to get things accomplished and I couldn’t be happier about the commitment I’ve made,” Van De Wege said. “I got into both firefighting and politics because they were tough positions that I knew I could work hard in to better service my community.”

Thomas indicated Van De Wege’s dual commitment is taking away from his ability to represent the 24th District.

“Being an effective legislator involves more than just being in session for 60 days and getting on a couple of committees,” Thomas said. “It requires the financial stability to be able to work at the post full time, year-round, which I am able to do.”

Van De Wege is a career firefighter with Clallam County Fire District 3, which serves the Sequim area. He serves on the House’s Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Audit Review, Technology Energy and Communication Committee, the Joint Committee on Veterans’ and Military Affairs and is the vice chairman of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Thomas said his goals are to lower taxes, strike a balance between property rights and the peninsula’s natural beauty and help make health care affordable for everyone.


Republican Clallam County Commissioner Mike Chapman indicated he will run for a third term. He said he’s all but officially declared his candidacy and is still figuring out how to tag himself in the election, Republican or Independent.

“I have heard frustrations and I know some people have felt disappointed I haven’t maintained an adamant stance against all activities and plans that a party line may cross,” Chapman said. “The average person in the county is tired, I’m tired and most of our country is tired of being divided by strict party leadership. I’m a Clallam County leader and my goal has always been to do what’s best for our county.”

Port Angeles Republican Terry Roth has raised his hand in interest for the position as well, possibly running against Chapman for the Republican ticket as well as a seat on the commission.

“I’ve submitted my name to the Clallam County Republican Party to be considered as a candidate,” Roth said. “The party will choose who to endorse.”

Roth is a former sheriff’s deputy and sergeant and a former Clallam County Charter Review commissioner. Roth currently operates the Northwest Duty-free store.

Chapman said two years ago he considered finishing his second term without seeking re-election. Then he realized the momentum the commission had gained over the years, witnessing projects come to fruition he wanted to continue to be a part of that trend.

In utility leadership, Hugh Haffner has sat on the Clallam County Public Utility District Commission for nearly 14 years. He said he will likely run for another six-year term to take care of unfinished business, such as the Carlsborg sewer project and receiving proper restitution from the Bonneville civil suit.

In Clallam’s Superior Court, all three judges up for re-election have indicated interest in running, although none has formally filed with the Public Disclosure Commission.

For more information on local and state elections, visit and click on Auditor or visit and click on elections. To look over public filings for office candidacy, visit

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