UPDATED -- Tharinger, Van De Wege continue their leads in state House races
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Dan Gase, left, and Jim McEntire, the two Republican candidates for either of the two 24th District seats in the state House of Representatives, go over election results Tuesday night at the Clallam County Courthouse.

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — Incumbent Democrat Kevin Van De Wege declared victory Tuesday night over Republican Dan Gase — even though Gase isn't giving up — while Democrat Steve Tharinger and Republican Jim McEntire were deadlocked as the two 24th District House races headed to their conclusions.

With new votes reported today from Clallam County, Van De Wege, a Clallam County Fire District 3 firefighter-EMT from Sequim, continued his healthy lead over Gase, 57, a Port Angeles real estate managing broker and consultant.

Van De Wege had 23,975 votes, or 55.28 percent, to Gase's 19,397 votes, or 44.72 percent, for the district's Position 1 seat.

Tharinger, one of the three Clallam County commissioners, had 22,181 votes, or 51.53 percent, to McEntire's 20,860 votes, or 48.47 percent, for the Position 2 seat vacated by Democratic Party powerhouse Lynn Kessler.

The 24th District consists of Clallam and Jefferson counties and the northern half of Grays Harbor County, not including Aberdeen.

Clallam County will report more vote totals on Friday, by 4:30 p.m.

Jefferson and Grays Harbor counties haven't reported again since Tuesday night. They will report their tallies of last-minute ballots on Friday.

Van De Wege declared victory with thousands of ballots yet to be counted in a district with more than 84,000 registered voters.

Van De Wege, 35, who was unavailable for comment Tuesday night, declared in an “official victory statement” e-mailed by his campaign that “I have been re-elected.”

“It means so much to me that our local communities have placed their faith in me.”

Gase said Tuesday night he was not ready to concede.

“I definitely have some ground to make up, but Clallam is certainly the biggest pile of voters, and where I am stronger,” Gase said.

Gase said he was hopeful more votes would swing his way during the next ballot counts.

Gase leads in Clallam County, 11,303 votes, or 51.07 percent, to Van De Wege's 10,830 votes, 48.93 percent.

Tharinger, 61, and McEntire, 60, each said Tuesday night they were optimistic.

“We are ahead, but obviously there are more votes to be counted,” Tharinger said, adding he wasn't worried he was behind in Clallam County, where he is in his third term as a county commissioner.

McEntire, a retired Coast Guard captain and one of the three Port of Port Angeles commissioners, was outpolling Tharinger in Clallam County, 11,700 votes, or 53.12 percent, to Tharinger's 10,326 votes, or 46.88 percent.

More than half of the district's voters live in Clallam County.

“We represent a district, and districtwide, we are doing OK,” Tharinger said.

“According to the percentages counted, in Jefferson County, I was real strong. There are more votes to be counted obviously in Clallam. We'll probably know by the end of the week.”

McEntire said he was buoyed that he was ahead in Clallam — but he noted that he was even with Tharinger in Grays Harbor County and expected he would be behind in Jefferson County.

“Jefferson ballots are not going my way, but Clallam has 10,000 or 11,000 yet to be counted,” McEntire said.

“I think it's going to go down to the wire. I'm tickled I had a lot of support here in my home county.”

In the four-way, top-two Aug. 17 primary, Tharinger barely outpolled McEntire, 15,940 votes to 15,852 for McEntire.

But Van De Wege gained 54 percent of the primary election vote in a three-way race.

Van De Wege, elected in 2006, is running for his third two-year term.

During the campaign, Tharinger attacked McEntire's fiscal credibility because of McEntire's support as a Port of Port Angeles commissioner for the failed Harbor-Works Public Development Authority, which officially dissolved Friday and returned $168,734.29 of $1.3 million in public funds.

The city and port each loaned the Harbor-Works Development Authority $650,000 from their economic development funds to clean up and redevelop the abandoned Rayonier pulp mill site in Port Angeles.

McEntire will resign his Port commissioner seat if he is elected.

Tharinger also was criticized for wanting to keep his county commissioner position if he is elected to the Legislature, in which case he would earn more than $100,000 annually.

He later pledged to not collect his county commissioner salary while the Legislature is in session, if he is elected.

The two also differed on job creation, with Tharinger supporting government's role in creating jobs through infrastructure projects and McEntire asserting that government should take a more hands-off approach.

Job creation also was a major issue in the race between Gase and Van De Wege.

Van De Wege often emphasized his role in helping to get Peninsula Plywood into the former KPly site in Port Angeles, while Gase, who often presented himself as a political outsider, said government jobs cost taxpayers money in the long run.

Gase criticized Van De Wege for voting to suspend tax-limiting-Initiative 960.

He said the budget can be balanced without raising taxes and pushed private sector job creation as the best long-term solution to the state's economic woes.

Tharinger and Van De Wege raised almost three times more in contributions than their Republican rivals.

The Democrats, who shared a blog site, raised a combined $195,283 to McEntire's and Gase's combined $75,152, according to state Public Disclosure Commission records reviewed Monday on the agency's website, www.pdc.wa.gov.

Tharinger raised $104,728 to McEntire's $58,119, while Van De Wege raised $90,555 to Gase's $39,628.

The state representative position pays $42,106 annually.

The Legislature meets for 60 days in even-numbered years and 105 days in odd-numbered years.
Senior Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 03. 2010 6:09PM
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