Sequim city council candidates — from left, Rachel Anderson, Vicki Lowe, Kathy Downer, Brandon Janisse and Lowell Rathbun — gather for a photo-op about an hour after 2021 General Election results were announced on Nov. 2. The quintet out-paced their opponents to hold leads in the election. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Sequim city council candidates — from left, Rachel Anderson, Vicki Lowe, Kathy Downer, Brandon Janisse and Lowell Rathbun — gather for a photo-op about an hour after 2021 General Election results were announced on Nov. 2. The quintet out-paced their opponents to hold leads in the election. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

2021 General Election: SGGL candidates surge to big leads for Sequim City Council seats

A mixture of relief and surprise were the reactions from Sequim City Council candidates following the General Election’s sweep of Sequim’s open seats.

An allied group endorsed by the Sequim Good Governance League — Kathy Downer, Vicki Lowe, Rachel Anderson, Brandon Janisse and Lowell Rathbun — defeated a group of candidates endorsed by the Independent Advisory Association: Sarah Kincaid, Mike Pence, Daryl Ness, Patrick Day and Keith Larkin.

Votes remained fairly consistent upon last tally across the five seats ranging from Downer, a retired nurse, leading incumbent Kincaid 69.6 percent to 30.2 percent (2,298 votes to 997) to Rathbun, a retired engineer, 65.3 percent to incumbent Larkin’s 34.6 percent (2,151 votes to 1,138), as of Nov. 5.

Lowe earned 2,261 votes (68.2 percent) to Pence’s 1,050 votes (31.7 percent). Anderson has 2,232 votes (67.6 percent) to Ness’ 1,066 votes (32.3 percent), and Janisse leads Day with 2,150 votes (65.9 percent) to Day’s 1,100 votes (33.9 percent).

Clallam County election officials note there were 5,906 city residents eligible to vote in the election with an approximate 56 percent turnout in the city race with the most votes.

An ‘idealogical choice’

Incumbent Janisse, a control room technician at Clallam County Jail, said Sequim had an ideological choice with the election.

“Does Sequim want to continue down the same path we have been going, or do we want to reverse course and get back to basic government and civility? The voters obviously chose that.”

Downer said she and fellow candidates and volunteers worked hard door-belling and reaching out to help educate the public.

“It’s reassuring I moved to a community where people care enough to change the city council,” she said.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

Larkin, a retired California fire service administrator, said Wednesday he was in shock of the disparity in the results.

“I can’t believe it’s so lopsided,” he said.

Larkin said he felt the results would have been different because of the ample number of signs he placed (75) and homes he visited with commitments for a vote. Larkin said hasn’t thought about running again.

Appointed in October 2020, Larkin said he’s proud of holding off on raising utility rates two years in a row, making headway on affordable housing, and supporting small businesses, particularly with more than $500,000 in grants.

“It’s been rewarding in that respect doing some good things for the community,” he said.

Day, a retired California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation administrator, said he felt the turnout was low but accepted the results. He plans to stay involved.

“Taking one loss and putting your tail between your legs isn’t a good thing,” he said. “If you’re truly for the people, then you need to do what’s in their best interest. We’ll see how the next two years go.”

Day said his fellow candidates being outspent may have attributed partly to the results.

The Peninsula Daily News reported the currently leading candidates out-raised their opponents by $10,000 ($25,000-$15,000).

Ness, a retired railroad administrator, called running for office a “really different experience” but doesn’t plan to run again. He intends to do some more railroad consulting, he said, but plans to play more pickleball.

“I’m good,” he said. “I’ve got a good life.”

As for the incoming city councilors, Ness said the city has a balanced budget and is in good shape.

“I wish them the best and all the luck,” he said. “I hope they do well.”

Campaign trail

During the campaign season, COVID-19 restricted some events to virtual forums and/or delayed or cancelled others. Some candidates opted not to go to specific group’s events because of perceived partisanship.

Some key talking points for candidates included increased transparency, and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s application process for the medication-assisted treatment center.

Lowe, executive director for American Indian Health Commission for Washington, said the voting sweep lined up with their canvassing.

“When we went out and talked to people they really wanted a change,” she said.

“Many said what can you do about the mayor. They’re tired of the focus on nationalists’ ideas. They wanted to focus on Sequim and talked about sidewalks, streets and those kinds of things.

“It was about Sequim being Sequim again.”

The leading group of candidates said residents highlighted the call for former city manager Charlie Bush’s resignation and a resolution to support local businesses contradicting public health mandates.

A majority of council — Sequim mayor William Armacost, Kincaid, Larkin and Pence — voted for Bush to resign in January, and they voted in September for a resolution to express “support for small businesses and essential workers’ individual rights.”

The resolution added their intent to “uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Washington and to stand in strong support of the people in the City of Sequim and anyone else in the County, and the State that believe their constitutional rights are being violated.”

Anderson, a volunteer for multiple nonprofits who was appointed to city council in February, voted against the resolution and said it created “a lot of confusion and chaos” and may have been a key reason for the votes to go the way they did.

She was appointed after Bush’s resignation but said she’s heard some people aren’t happy with the hiring of new city manager Matt Huish.

“I have a lot of hope for the future, especially with a new council that can better work with a city manager and help create a more positive work environment,” Anderson said.

Rathbun said while door-belling that he heard frustrations from residents about COVID and Armacost’s alleged connection to QAnon.

Armacost received national media attention for speaking on KSQM radio in Aug. 2020 telling people to look into a video about the conspiratorial belief linking public figures to child trafficking and civil unrest. He later apologized via a press release through the city, and disavowed the theory on the radio, saying he never endorsed or called himself a supporter.

Armacost, Kincaid and Pence did not respond to requests for comment on the election.

Terms

Both Armacost, position 1, and deputy mayor Tom Ferrell, position 7, hold terms through Dec. 31, 2023.

City staff said the mayor position, a two-year term, will tentatively be voted on at the first city council meeting of 2022, set for Jan. 10.

Newly elected councilors will be signed into office sometime on Nov. 24 after the election is certified. They’ll formally take their seats on Dec. 13.

Downer and Rathbun will serve through Dec. 31, 2023 on a two-year term, while Lowe, Anderson and Janisse serve through the end of 2025 on four-year terms.

Of four appointed councilors, Anderson — who took over after former mayor Dennis Smith resigned — was the only elected to council. Along with Larkin in October 2020, Kincaid and Pence were appointed on April 27, 2020.

Next steps

After asking the newly elected councilors their priorities, Lowe said they received a mandate from residents — “act right and get back to taking care of Sequim.”

Downer said she doesn’t want to focus on opposition.

“We need to start doing the city’s business and not doing anti-MAT, anti-tribe, and not be against anything,” she said. “We need to find out from the people what they want us to do.”

For Anderson, she’d like to continue prioritizing affordable housing and mental health awareness while continuing to seek a better job of helping struggling individuals in the community.

Rathbun said he’d like to investigate a permanent headquarters for the Sequim Health & Housing Collaborative and pursue a concrete project to get housing for Sequim’s workforce while partnering with various agencies, developers and real estate agents.

Lowe expressed an interest in bringing back race, equity and inclusion discussions that she helped facilitate earlier this year while continuing to hone in on the budget and work with the new city manager while supporting staff.

Janisse said there will be interesting discussions in regards to ideology, but he too feels the city will return to a previous time.

“What we’re supposed to do is make sure our roads are paved and make sure our police are staffed and we don’t take into account partisan politics,” he said.

“I think we all understand we play a role in doing what’s best for the city and not ourselves.”

He added Sequim has a bright future.

“Sequim is an awesome place to live,” he said. “We all call this place home and for me, I want to do everything I can to make it an enjoyable place to live, retire and start a business.”

For more on the Sequim City Council, visit www.sequimwa.gov.

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