With the May 11-15 candidate filing period little more than three weeks away, officials in Clallam and Jefferson counties are getting ready for the Nov. 3 general election in the age of COVID-19.
Election coordinators are urging candidates to file online on county government websites as many county offices are closed or open only by appointment in order to maintain social distancing guidelines.
Offices up for election include public utility district and county commissioner positions in both counties and four Superior Court judgeships — three in Clallam County and one in Jefferson County.
Clallam County Auditor Shoona Riggs said 67 precinct committee offices also are open, each with positions for Republican and Democratic candidates, which, in a non-COVID-19 environment, could draw more than 100 people to the auditor’s office to file for the seats.
“If we have them do it online as much as possible, it would help things go so much smoother,” she said.
Riggs said the Clallam County Auditor’s Office is closed to the public.
She said she is seeking guidance from the Secretary of State’s Office and Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols on the degree to which the office must be open for candidates to file in person.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order expires May 4, although health officials on the North Olympic Peninsula say there’s a chance he will extend the order, or parts of it, beyond that date.
Ready to run
Some familiar faces have already made their electoral intentions known.
Clallam County Commissioner Randy Johnson, who filed four years ago with no party preference, and Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean, a Democrat, said April 15 they will run for re-election, as have all three Democratic 24th Legislative District lawmakers, who represent both counties and part of Grays Harbor County.
State Reps. Mike Chapman of Port Angeles and Steve Tharinger of Port Townsend, and state Sen. Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim, all Democrats, have already filed for re-election.
Republican Connie Beauvais of Joyce, a Port of Port Angeles commissioner, will challenge Van De Wege for his senate seat, as will Danielle Turissini, a Port Ludlow resident who did not declare a political party in her April 10 filing.
Tharinger, formerly of Sequim, is being challenged by Brian Pruiett, a Republican from Carlsborg who with his wife own a small organic farm and have a small business that invests in real estate.
Republican Sue Forde of Sequim registered March 6 to run against Chapman for his Position 1 seat.
Jodi Wilke of Port Hadlock filed to run against Chapman on Feb. 11, 2019.
Clallam County Superior Court Judges Brent Basden, appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee in November 2018, and Lauren Erickson, appointed in January 2019, said Wednesday they will run for re-election.
Both were elected Nov. 5 to fill one-year unexpired terms. Erickson replaced Erik Rohrer, and Basden replaced Chris Melly.
Clallam County Superior Court Judge Brian Coughenour, who is resigning June 1 with his seat up for election in November, will be replaced by Inslee from among applicants Simon Barnhart, Lisa Dublin, Harry Gasnick, Curtis Johnson and Alexandrea Schodowski.
Coughenour’s replacement, who is expected to run for the position Nov. 3, will be selected by Inslee “maybe as soon as by the end of this month,” Inlsee’s deputy general counsel, Tip Wonhoff, said last week in an email.
“Interviews will hopefully be complete this week,” Wonhoff said.
Johnson, 77, said if he’s re-elected he would not run for a third term.
He said he is anxious to get the county’s emergency operations center up and running at the port’s 1010 building, a facility he thought would first see major use during a Cascadia Subduction Zone tsunami.
“For COVID, we need to be located in one place, and 9-1-1 as well,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he works well with Democratic Commissioner Mark Ozias of Sequim and Republican Commissioner Bill Peach of Forks, and that it will be important for cities and counties to help businesses and nonprofits in the months to come.
Clallam County PUD Commissioner David Anderson, appointed to the position in September 2018, also is up for election but announced he is not running for re-election.
In Clallam County, the link for candidate filing will be placed on the website at www.tinyurl.com/PDN-ClallamFile at the beginning of filing week, according to the county auditor.
Other seats on the Nov. 3 ballot include positions held by 6th Congressional District Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, Democratic Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal.