UPDATED — 2023 General Election: School board incumbents, SGGL candidates surge ahead

Incumbents in the race for the Sequim School Board and Sequim Good Governance League-backed candidates have significant leads after the first ballot count in the General Election following the release of results on Nov. 7.

Following a second count Wednesday, voter turnout for the General Election is 39.67% — or 22,757 ballots counted out of 57,359 given voters.

Sequim City Council

Council candidates Kathy Downer, Dan Butler and Harmony Rutter, all backed by the Sequim Good Governance League (SGGL) and were on hand Tuesday evening at SGGL’s election night party, celebrating a sweep in the council races.

In the Sequim City Council Position No. 1 race (four-year term), Downer, a former nurse who currently holds Position No. 2 on the council, earned a combined total of 2,089 votes, or 73.9%, over incumbent William Armacost, a Sequim business owner and former Sequim mayor, who garnered just 732 votes, or 25.9%, as of Wednesday.

Downer said Tuesday evening that her focus on workforce housing seemed to resonate with voters.

“It’s a huge problem, she said. “At least we’re chipping away at it.”

Downer said this campaign was a tough one, with a flurry of activities and events to get her message out.

“I tried to do everything,” Downer said, from forums and radio appearances to sign-waving and door-belling.

“It’s a lot of work; you have to want to do it,” she said.

In the Position No. 2 race (four-year term), Butler, an administrator at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, garnered 1,785 votes (63.1%), while Jim Black, a former software engineer and IT manager, earned 1,042 votes (36.9%).

“This is remarkable,” Butler said after seeing the results. “I’ve never done this before.”

In the Sequim City Council Position 6 race (four-year term), Harmony Rutter is facing off against Patrick Day. Rutter, a self-employed horticulture specialist, earned 1,851 votes (66.1%) while Day, a former law enforcement and security officer, garnered 948 votes (33.9%).

“I’m really excited about the future of this city,” Rutter said Tuesday evening. “I’m honored.”

Tom Ferrell, Sequim’s mayor, is running unopposed for the council’s four-year, Position 7 seat.

Sequim School Board

Voters in both counties cast votes for three nonpartisan positions on the Sequim School Board.

Sequim School Board Position 1 incumbent Larry Jeffryes, a former chemistry and biology teacher who’s served since 2019, won a combined total of 7,013 votes, or 63.4% in Clallam and Jefferson counties. Park ranger John Graham, who garnered a total of 4,036 votes, or 36.5%, in Clallam and Jefferson counties, as of Wednesday. The position is a four-year term.

Jeffryes said the first time he ran for school board he was unopposed, and found running in this election with an opponent “new and difficult.

“I didn’t know it had it in my genes,” he said Tuesday evening at the SGGL meeting.

Former principal Maren Halvorsen won a combined total of 7,748 votes, or 70.5%, in Clallam and Jefferson counties for the two-year unexpired term for Position 4, an at-large seat she now fills as an appointee. Challenging her is former school board candidate Derek Huntington, who took a combined total of 3,23 votes, or 29.4%, in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

“I’m very happy (with the results),” Halvorsen said Tuesday evening. “I think people like my experience in education.”

Said Huntington, “I’m very disappointed of course, personally. I did a lot of work running for this position.

“I appreciate every body [who] voted for me, who took time to understand what I was running for.”

Huntington said he felt his and other school board races was affected by who was backing certain candidates.

“I feel like there’s a certain local group — ever single candidate they backed won,” Huntington said. “It kind of disheartening for me for running. It was supposed to be very non-partisan, but it turned into something partisan.”

Michael Rocha, a local businessman and board appointee who currently holds the District 3 seat, has a slight lead in the election for Position 5, a four-year term. after earning a combined total of 5,440 votes, or 51.2%, in Clallam and Jefferson counties. Challenger Sandra Kellso took a combined total of 5,162 votes, or 48.6%, despite her having withdrawn from the race; she withdrew too late to be removed from the ballot.

Eric Pickens, a teacher with the Port Angeles School District and the Sequim School Board president, is running unopposed for Sequim School District Director District No. 3, a four-year term; he currently holds the Position 5 at-large seat.

Halvorsen said she appreciated the fact there were several contested school board races, and that she hopes to see more involvement in future board elections.

With all four school board directors currently holding seats also holding leads in the General Election, the board make-up looks like it will remain the same for at least the next couple of years.

“I think [voters] want a functioning school board; that’s what they’re getting,” Halvorsen said.

County commissioner

Clallam County commissioner Mark Ozias, a Democrat, saw his Republican challenger, Stan McClain, drop out in early August, though both names remained on General Election ballots.

On Tuesday, Ozias held 13,020 votes (64.9%) to McClain’s 6,989 votes (34.8%).

Uncontested races

In Clallam County, numerous other candidates appear on the ballot unopposed:

John Lewis is running for Sunland Water District Commissioner Position No. 2 (six-year term).

Mike Mingee is running for Fire District 3 (Sequim) Commissioner Position No. 2 (six-year short and full term).

Tom Ferrell is running for Sequim City Council Position No. 7 (four-year term).

Philip Giuntoli is running for Hospital District 2 (Port Angeles) Commissioner District No. 2 Position No. 2 (six-year short and full term).

John B. Nutter is running for Hospital District 2 (Port Angeles) Commissioner District No. 2 Position No. 1.

Chuck Carlson is running for Hospital District 1 (Forks) Commissioner Position No. 2.