A hearing to determine Ann Marie Henninger’s eligibility to run for Olympic Medical Center hospital commissioner has been set for early September, just a few days before general election ballots are to be printed and mailed to voters.
Sequim resident Michelle Ridgway is asking a judge to make Henninger prove she lives in the Sequim-area district she wants to represent; residency is a legal requirement.
On Aug. 16, Clallam County Superior Court judge Brent Basden set Sept. 5 for the hearing to determine Henninger’s eligibility.
Henninger dominated in the county’s primary election in early August. According to the latest ballot count on Aug. 15, she won 58.41 percent of the vote (8,340) compared to Nate Adkisson’s 23.31 percent (3,328) and Warren Pierce’s 17.69 percent (2,526), pushing Henninger and Adkisson on to the Nov. 5 general election.
However, Ridgway challenged Henninger’s residency in early August.
Henninger and her husband, Ray, own residences and properties at 322 Klahhane Road and at 425 N. Sunnyside Ave., according to county Assessor’s Office records. The North Sunnyside Avenue address in Sequim lies within commissioner District 1, while the Klahhane Road address is outside the district boundaries.
As of April 30, two weeks before filing for the position, Henninger lived outside the commissioner district, at the Klahhane Road address, according to an extract of state voter registration records contained in Ridgway’s filing.
Henninger filed as a candidate May 17, the last day of filing week, using the North Sunnyside Avenue address, also listed on her voter registration.
“I can’t give the date when she changed to Sunnyside Avenue,” Clallam County Auditor Shoona Riggs said in mid-August.
Whether Henninger’s name would be taken off the ballot should Ridgway prevail in court, “will be something for the court to decide,” Riggs said.
An elected official’s residence for purposes of registering to vote and voting must be that person’s “principal abode,” according to a 1951 state Attorney General’s Office opinion cited in Ridgway’s filing.
Ridgway asked that the court order Henninger’s name off the November ballot because she is not living in OMC’s District 1 and requests that the other two candidates’ names — Adkisson and Pierce — be on the Nov. 5 ballot.
“If Ann Marie Henninger does not reside in Commissioner District No. 1, I respectfully request that the Court issue an order prohibiting the County Auditor from placing Ann Marie Henninger’s name on the general election ballot,” according to Ridgway’s affidavit.
Ridgway said she supports Adkisson and works with his wife in Parent-Teacher Organization activities.
Both Henninger and Sequim lawyer William Payne, who is representing Henninger, are out of town in coming days and are unable to schedule something sooner, Payne said at a show cause hearing Aug. 16 in Clallam County Superior Court.
Ballots for the Nov. 5 general election are to first be mailed out to military and overseas voters on Sept. 20 while standard ballots are mailed by Oct. 16, Clallam County elections manager Becky Pettigrew said.
Changing a name on ballots takes time and needs to be tested, Pettigrew said, and the elections department would need to have any changes by early September.
Ballots “should have the names of qualified candidates,” Port Angeles lawyer Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin, representing Ridgway, said last week. “It feels like we’re running out the clock.”
Regardless of the outcome of the Sept. 5 hearing, Henninger’s name will likely be printed in a printed voter’s guide that includes statewide measures along with local races. Pettigrew said that publication’s deadline is Aug. 28.
If Henninger is declared ineligible, the elections department would place an insert into local ballot packets explaining the discrepancy between the guide and ballot, Pettigrew said.
Basden was slotted to rule on the appeal, but said on Aug. 16 he decided to recuse himself from the decision.
“I know Mrs. Henninger, we’ve had various conversations (and) she knows my family,” Basden told attorneys involved with the issue. “I don’t feel I have a personal bias; it’s more of an appearance thing.”
Basden and attorney’s initially considered a Sept. 6 date of the hearing before settling for a day prior.
“If it’s crystal clear on Sept. 6, we’re fine,” Basden said. “Sometimes they (eligibility issues like these) are no crystal clear.”