Legislative races set for November

Three familiar political faces and one new one emerged as leaders in the Aug. 4 primary election voting for two 24th Legislative District seats.

Incumbent Democratic state Reps. Steve Tharinger of Port Townsend and Mike Chapman of Port Angeles received the bulk of votes in top-two balloting for the House seats, according to the state Secretary of State website at sos.wa.gov.

The district covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County.

Ballot counts this week show Chapman receiving 33,159 votes or 56.1 percent in the three counties and Tharinger getting 27,434 votes, or 47.2 percent.

Political newcomer and Republican Brian Pruiett of Carlsborg, a real estate investor and retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, was headed for a Nov. 3 Election Day showdown for the Position 2 slot against Tharinger, who has occupied the position for five terms. Pruiett had received 15,638 votes, or 26.9 percent, as of Aug. 11.

The four-person field for Tharinger’s seat included Democrat Darren Corcoran of Elma — who received 4,651 votes, or 7.9 percent — and Jodi Wilke, a North Olympic Peninsula Republican who dropped out of the race for personal reasons July 18, three days after ballots were mailed to voters; Wilke still garnered almost 18 percent of the vote district-wide.

Republican Sue Forde of Sequim, the Clallam County Republican Party chair who unsuccessfully ran against then-Clallam County Commissioner Tharinger in 2003, was on her way to earning the right to challenge Chapman for the Position 1 seat he’s held for two two-year terms.

She had 16,797 votes, or 28.4 percent, in the regional election.

Truck driver Daniel Charles Svoboda of Port Hadlock, who listed his party as “Prefers Trump Republican Party,” tallied 15 percent of votes and conceded to Chapman and Forde on Aug. 5, saying he had not campaigned for the position.

Chapman said the distribution of votes in his favor was “virtually the same” as the election in 2018.

“It makes me feel like I’m doing a good job, that people like the job I’m doing,” he said on Aug. 5.

“I’m not perfect, as I’m sure that my opponent will point out. We have areas of disagreement, but this is an area where we need to have a working representative, that thinks we need to have good public infrastructure.”

Chapman did one mailer to voters during the primary, but the forums and community events that normally fill up an election-season calendar have been mostly absent under non-COVID-19 conditions restrictions.

The only forum he attended was a Clallam County League of Women Voters event that was held after Forde cancelled her appearance the day before the forum, Chapman said.

Forde did not return calls for comment about the election results.

Tharinger said he was satisfied with the results and the “considerable margin” that he achieved as one of four candidates.

“I would have liked to have had more than 50 percent, obviously, but the difference in my vote count and the other individuals is a pretty strong lead,” he said.

“The primary is a really good poll that generally chooses the winner.”

Tharinger said the increase in taxes that he has been criticized for mostly went to K-12 and higher education, including making college free for students with household incomes of $50,000 or less, a program funded through a tax on internet services such as Amazon.

He said a payroll tax increase benefits people in need of long-term care that will save the state about $450 million in Medicare costs in 10 to 15 years, Tharinger said.

“We need to get into the reasons for some of these numbers,” he said of the critics.

Tharinger, who said he has not met Pruiett, said a League of Women Voters forum featuring the Position 2 race was cancelled after Pruiett “chose not to participate.”

Pruiett said he already had a prior campaign commitment in Grays Harbor County when asked to take part in the event but did not know if he would attend a League-sponsored general election forum if it’s scheduled.

Pruiett said the rules are too restrictive.

“I did not see much utility to it,” he said.

Pruiett said he has blocked out October for debates and forums but is otherwise concentrating his time on one-to-one contact with voters and campaign and party events.

Forums, he said, “are not as important as allowing people to ask their own questions.”

Pruiett said he will champion small businesses and criticized Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s measures that limited small business activities to stop the spread of COVID-19 while allowing big-box stores freer reign.

“Too many people have been harmed by the governor’s decrees,” he said, calling for a business and occupation “tax holiday” for every day small businesses were forced to stay closed because of those edicts.

Pruiett would not address how he would roll back recent tax increases, a main focus of his criticism of Tharinger.

“That’s got to be a negotiated agreement,” he said.

Pruiett’s campaign has been doorbelling for votes at a time that health officials are urging people to limit their social interactions. He’s being careful, Pruiett said.

“We’re very aware that a lot of people are conscious of the governor’s directives that we wear masks,” he said.

“When, we doorbell, we stand back 8 to 10 feet from the door, with a mask on, of course.”

The incumbent and the challenger differ on doorbelling, too.

“I don’t think it’s an appropriate activity during the virus,” Tharinger said.

“I think it’s an intrusion that people don’t want in their home at this point.

“It doesn’t meet the guidelines, it seems to me, of public health protocol for controlling the virus.”

Corcoran did not return calls for comment about the election results.

In the district’s senate race — one that already sees its two candidates headed to the general election — incumbent Democrat Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim tallied 32,928 votes (55.5 percent) to Port Angeles Republican challenger Connie Beauvais’ 26,285 votes (44.3 percent).

Two headed for Clallam County PUD faceoff

Patti Morris has earned a spot on the November ballot with Rick Paschall apparently also running in the general election race for Clallam County Public Utility District commissioner after a second count of primary election ballots on Wednesday.

Marty Michaelis was in third place and Neil Knutson was in fourth.

The top-two finishers from the primary will advance to the Nov. 3 general election. The PUD general election will include all voters of Clallam County except in the city of Port Angeles, which has its own electric utility.

Morris, Paschall, Michaelis and Knutson are vying for the six-year seat being vacated by appointee Dave Anderson.

Anderson is filling the expiring term of the late Hugh Haffner, a longtime District 2 commissioner who had resigned in June 2018 and died of complications from a stroke in February.

“I’m cautiously optimistic, because you’re never the winner until it’s all done,” Morris said in an Aug. 5 interview.

“You never know what’s going to happen in these things, and we’re in unusual times right now,” Morris added, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s just really hard to tell because it’s not traditional-type campaigning that you would normally do. It makes it much more interesting, I’ll say that, but I was very pleased with the outcome.”

Paschall was in second place with 1,679 votes, or 21.9 percent.

Michaelis was in third place with 1,259 votes, or 16.4 percent.

“My two goals are to keep Clallam County PUD’s rates as low as possible and to ensure BPA (Bonneville Power Administration) has enough resources to meet demand,” Paschall said.

Morris said she would focus on keeping PUD rates low while maintaining or increasing the district’s reliability of service. She also would urge greater transparency for PUD commission meetings, she said.

“I know that they’re more than willing to allow open access for citizens, but I think we need to work a little harder on that where meetings are recorded and people can go back and listen, ask questions, that kind of thing,” Morris said.

“We have so many customers that are on fixed incomes that we can’t really take on a lot of projects or things that would impact our rates,” Morris added.

“I do want to take a look at renewable resources and see if there’s a way that we can integrate them, such as community solar projects where they’re funded by a community type-program and don’t impact rates. I think those are worthwhile, so that’s something else I want to look at as well.”

Morris, who will be 66 as of the Nov. 3 general election, is a Port Angeles consultant who worked for 27 years for the Tucson Electric Power Company in Arizona.

Paschall, 62, is a retired operations manager of Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative, in Portland.

“Experience is important,” Paschall said. “I have over 30 years of experience working with BPA on behalf of rural electric utilities, and there will not be a learning curve.

“I know the people, I know the issues and I will be able to hit the ground running,” Paschall added.

PUD commissioners earn up to $48,724 a year, comprised of a $30,804 salary and up to $17,920 a year in a per diem allotments for meetings and PUD-related business.

Commissioners approve an annual budget that in 2020 is $82 million, including $75 million for electric services and $6.7 million for water services. The budget funds 145 employees.

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