Ann Marie Henninger, a candidate for Olympic Medical Center Commissioner District No. 1, examines an electronic document displayed by Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin during cross-examination at Thursday’s Clallam County Superior Court hearing contesting Henninger’s eligibility for the position based upon her residency within the district. Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

Ann Marie Henninger, a candidate for Olympic Medical Center Commissioner District No. 1, examines an electronic document displayed by Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin during cross-examination at Thursday’s Clallam County Superior Court hearing contesting Henninger’s eligibility for the position based upon her residency within the district. Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

Judge rules on election eligibility: Henninger’s name to be on ballot

Ann Marie Henninger, an Olympic Medical Center hospital commissioner candidate, has been spared being taken off the general election ballot.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge Lauren Erickson decided on Sept. 5 not to remove Henninger’s name, rejecting a claim by Sequim resident Michelle Ridgway that Henninger was ineligible to run for the position.

Erickson threw out Ridgway’s assertion that Henninger did not live in District 1 when she filed for office on the May 17 deadline, allowing her to continue her run for the six-year office against opponent Nate Adkisson, whom she beat handily in the three-person Aug. 5 primary election.

Erickson ruled that Henninger lived at 425 Sunnyside Ave., which is inside the district, as of May 17, when she filed for the position.

“I’m relieved and I’m looking forward to campaigning,” Henninger said after the ruling.

“That’s my focus now.”

Sequim resident Michelle Ridgway, right, speaks with her advocate, Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin, at the start of Thursday’s court hearing to determine the eligibility of Olympic Medical Center Commissioner District 1 candidate Anne Marie Henninger based upon Henninger’s residency. Ridgway filed papers Aug. 5 challenging Henninger’s candidacy. Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

Sequim resident Michelle Ridgway, right, speaks with her advocate, Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin, at the start of Thursday’s court hearing to determine the eligibility of Olympic Medical Center Commissioner District 1 candidate Anne Marie Henninger based upon Henninger’s residency. Ridgway filed papers Aug. 5 challenging Henninger’s candidacy. Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

According to her testimony, Henninger made a concerted effort to establish her residency inside the district shortly before the May 17 candidate-filing deadline.

She testified that between May 9 and 11, she moved from 322 Klahhane Road, which is outside the district, to the Sunnyside Avenue address, while her husband and three sons remained at the Klahhane Road address.

She changed her voter registration to the Sunnyside Avenue address May 12 or May 13, she said.

Henninger said that the Sunnyside Avenue house, which she and her husband bought in July 2018, does not have hot water but will this week.

She moved into the unfinished house in May, while it was being remodeled, she said.

“That was to be able to fulfill the requirements to file to run for election for this position, and the remodeling was still in process,” Henninger testified.

William Payne, attorney for Olympic Medical Center Commissioner District 1 candidate Ann Marie Henninger, examines court papers during Henninger’s hearing on Thursday contesting her eligibility for the seat. Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

William Payne, attorney for Olympic Medical Center Commissioner District 1 candidate Ann Marie Henninger, examines court papers during Henninger’s hearing on Thursday contesting her eligibility for the seat. Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

Her sons and husband, Ray, an uncontested candidate for Clallam County Park and Recreation District (SARC) commissioner, moved into the Sunnyside Avenue house in August, she said. Ray Henninger changed his voter registration effective Aug. 7.

Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin, representing Ridgeway, tried to establish that Henninger had “an intent” to move to Sunnyside Avenue without fulfilling the legal requirement of being a resident on the day she filed. That is not enough to establish residency, he said.

Schromen-Wawrin, also a Port Angeles City Council member, pointed to her low water and electric bills.

He asked Henninger where she took showers, as she lacked hot water, and at times had sharp exchanges with Henninger’s attorney, William Payne of Sequim, who said some of the questions unnecessarily delved into his client’s “personal life.”

“One does not need hot water to shower,” Henninger said.

“Where does your dog reside?” Schromen-Wawrin asked her to soft laughter from the gallery.

Henninger said the dog lived at both addresses, moving in with her on Sunnyside later in May.

“The burden is on her to show she changed her residence to Sunnyside,” Schromen-Wawrin said.

“All we have is her saying she resided there.

“This goes to the issue of whether she resided there or not.”

Payne responded that there was no evidence that Henninger did not live on Sunnyside Avenue.

“There are all sorts of things people do to not use the electricity and water,” Payne said.

People buy bottled water and use generators, he said.

At one point, with Schromen-Wawrin hammering at why Henninger moved to Sunnyside Avenue and Payne objecting, Erickson admonished the two lawyers.

“Stop arguing!” Erickson said.

“She testified she moved in to run for office.”

In her ruling, Erickson said she believes Henninger was a resident of District 1 as of May 17 when she filed for the District 1 position.

“I think she has met her burden,” Erickson said.

“Going back and forth does not establish that she doesn’t live there.”

Erickson extensively quoted the 1999 state Supreme Court case Dumas V. Gagner (tinyurl.com/PDN-ResidencyCase).

“Election contests are governed by several general principles,” according to the ruling.

“Chief among them is the principle, long followed by this Court, that the judiciary should ‘exercise restraint in interfering with the elective process which is reserved to the people in the state constitution.’

“Unless an election is clearly invalid, ‘when the people have spoken, their verdict should not be disturbed by the courts …’ ”

“In particular, statutes establishing qualifications for office are to be construed to ‘unfetter the process of election’ rather than ‘curtail the freedom to stand for office.’ ”

Henninger won 58 percent of the vote in the Aug. 6 primary to Adkisson’s 23 percent and Warren Pierce’s 18 percent.

She faces Adkisson on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.

Payne said he would seek $5,000 in attorney’s fees from Ridgway.

Ridgway, a supporter of Adkisson, maintained after the hearing that Henninger had been “dishonest” about where she lived.

“I’ve known for a fact that I’ve driven past there and they have not been there until our first meeting Aug. 5,” Ridgway said.

Judge denies Henninger’s request for protection order

The same day one judge cleared Ann Marie Henninger to continue running for Olympic Medical Center hospital commissioner, another judge denied her a civil protection order against a Sequim woman in a related court hearing.

On the morning Sept. 5, Clallam County Superior Court Judge Lauren Erickson turned back a challenge by Michelle Ridgway that Henninger could not run for the county Hospital District 2, Sequim-district seat. Erickson allowed her name to remain on the ballot.

Ridgway had alleged Henninger did not live in the district when she filed for the election. Erickson ruled that Henninger lived at the 425 Sunnyside Ave. address when she registered for the race May 17, although Henninger said it was being remodeled at the time and did not have heat.

In the afternoon on Sept. 5, District Court 1 Judge Pro Tem Alexandrea Schodowski denied Henninger’s request for a temporary protection order, which included a mental health evaluation, against Sequim resident Judith Parker, who had an exchange over the phone with Henninger about her address.

Schodowski was affirming an Aug. 15 ruling by District Court 1 Judge Pro Tem Noah Harrison that a preponderance of evidence had not established that Parker harassed Henninger.

Harrison could have denied the order and dismissed the case but denied it and said the matter should be reviewed at the hearing — which it was Thursday, Sept. 5, before Schodowski.

“Ms. Parker did not go out of the way of her constitutionally protected free speech,” Schodowski ruled.

She said Henninger is a political candidate whose address is public information and noted that the Secretary of State’s Office suggests visiting the address of a candidate when that address is in question.

Henninger accused Parker of harassing and stalking her. She said the Sequim resident called her Aug. 2 and asked her “a series of personal questions about my address, my marriage, my family, the number of years I have lived here and my running for election,” according to the protection-order request.

She said Parker told her “we have been surveilling that address, and we don’t see signs that anyone is living there.”

Henninger said the conversation made her feel “scared and shaky” and “unsafe.”

She said she also felt threatened by Parker telling her “if I did not withdraw from the election, she would file (a) claim against me in court.”

Henninger, a registered nurse, knew Parker from an exchange she had with her at a June 27 League of Women Voters forum, when Parker had asked a follow-up question to Henninger’s statement during the forum that “I do not consider abortion to be health care,” Henninger said.

“I was incredibly rattled by that phone call,” she testified last week at the court hearing. “I felt it was invasive and very pushy.”

Parker, herself a county District 1 Charter Review Commission candidate, testified she went by Henninger’s house three times to see if she lived there on the suggestion of general information provided by the Secretary of State’s Office.

She said she left Henninger a voicemail after their Aug. 2 phone conversation that “we” are going to file an address complaint in Superior Court and that “you can abandon your candidacy or we will see you in court.”

Ridgway filed her motion for order to show cause in her address challenge Aug. 5.

Parker testified that she believed there were discrepancies in Henninger’s social media posts about the address, that she had filed as a candidate with a post office box number, and that there was nothing in the phone book indicating where Henninger lived. Henninger had testified earlier on Sept. 5 that she moved into the residence between May 9 and 11.

Parker said after the hearing that she “was always very cordial to (Henninger), so this took me completely by surprise that this came up.”

She said the hearing “was certainly a component” of the Superior Court action earlier that day.

“I wouldn’t say it triggered it, but it was part” of it, Parker said.

While Parker supports Nate Adkisson, Henninger’s opponent, “that was not the primary motivation,” Parker said.

“I just thought something was fishy.”

Sequim lawyer William Payne represented Henninger in both proceedings on Sept. 5.

“We’re disapointed the court did not find in her favor, but she’s happy she won this morning, so we’ll move on,” Payne said.

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