Jefferson County victors outline their goals

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — The two incumbent Jefferson County commissioners re-elected by comfortable margins Tuesday hope to continue the path they have set during the past four years.

The results of Tuesday’s general election means the three-member county board will remain Democratic.

Jefferson County Auditor Donna Eldridge predicted that the outcomes of the two county commission races, as well as the race for Jefferson County Superior Court judge, would prevail once all the ballots in the all-mail election are counted.

“I don’t see any changes,” she said.

“The current percentages are too great to overcome.”

District 1 Commissioner Phil Johnson of Port Townsend said he wants to work to establish sewer systems in Brinnon and Quilcene, which are restricted by state law because the small south county towns are not urban growth areas.

“I think we can find a safe, legal way to do this,” Johnson said.

District 2 Commissioner David Sullivan of Cape George said the coming years are critical because of the rewriting of both the comprehensive plan and the critical-areas ordinance.

“We need to continue to work on transportation issues,” Sullivan said.

“This will be a time where we will take measures to protect local agriculture and local food providers and work with them.”

Johnson, 66, took 8,705 votes, or 60.05 percent, compared with the 5,765 votes, or 39.77 percent, received by former Port Townsend City Councilman Geoff Masci, 64, a Republican.

Sullivan, 60, won 8,423 votes, or 58.48 percent, compared with the 5,956 votes, or 41.36 percent, taken by Republican Tim N. Thomas, 42, of Irondale.

In the only other race for county elected office, Keith C. Harper led by a large margin Peggy Ann Bierbaum in the race for Jefferson County’s sole Superior Court judge, a position vacated by the retirement of Judge Craddock Verser.

Harper, 59, a Port Townsend attorney, won 8,337 votes, or 60.71 percent, to 55-year-old Quilcene attorney Bierbaum’s 5,351 votes, or 38.96 percent.

As of Wednesday morning, the Auditor’s Office had received 19,216 ballots out of 22,756 issued during the initial tally, for a voter turnout of 84.44 percent.

Eldridge said 3,384 of those ballots were received Wednesday.

She said she hopes for a final voter turnout of about 89 percent but said final totals may fall below that amount.

Results of the second count will be announced at about noon Friday.

Thomas, a general contractor who owns Bernt Ericsen Excavating Inc. of Port Townsend, conceded the race Tuesday, saying, “It looks like it’s over.

“I made him earn it,” Thomas said.

“I don’t like to see anyone get elected to an office without a challenge.

“It was a good run.”

Thomas had moved to a trailer in Irondale in order to run in District 2.

On Wednesday, he said he would move out of the trailer and back to his District 1 home for the time being but that he is looking at other property in District 2.

“I always knew that the trailer was temporary,” he said, and if he had won, he would have moved to a larger place.

“If I run again, I’ll have to make those [residency] decisions at that time,” Thomas said.

Masci, who was not available for comment after votes were tallied Tuesday, said before then: “This election is historic in that it has shaken the ideology tree and resulted in support from different sides of the aisle for individual candidates who are not necessarily of the voters’ chosen party.”

Harper congratulated his opponent on the tenor of the campaign.

“I want to thank all the people who supported me and especially want to thank Ms. Bierbaum for making sure that things stayed positive,” he said.

Harper attributed his success to a rigorous schedule of “doorbelling” across East Jefferson County.

“We doorbelled in places where no candidate had ever been, going down to the end of dirt roads that were not well-traveled,” Harper said.

“By the time I finished that, I doorbelled in Port Townsend a second time.”

Calls to Bierbaum requesting comment were not returned.

Both Harper and Bierbaum serve as part-time Superior Court commissioner and judge pro tem and part-time District Court pro tem. Both practice law in Port Townsend.

The race between Bierbaum and Harper generated $64,784 in campaign contributions, making it the most expensive general election race on the North Olympic Peninsula, according to state Public Disclosure Commission records.

Democrat Derek Kilmer, born and raised in Port Angeles, built such an overwhelming lead against Republican Bill Driscoll of Tacoma on Tuesday night in the 6th Congressional District general election race that Driscoll conceded by 9:30 p.m.

State Reps. Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege and state Sen. Jim Hargrove all were leading by large margins in the initial count of the all-mail election Tuesday night.

The 24th Legislative District includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and the northern two-thirds of Grays Harbor County.

Tharinger, 63, of Sequim was far ahead of Republican challenger Steve Gale, 45, of Sequim for Position 2.

Van De Wege, 38, of Sequim was winning his race for a third term against independent candidate Craig Durgan, 55, of Port Ludlow in the race for Position 1, a two-year term.

Hargrove, 59, of Hoquiam was besting Port Ludlow resident Larry Carter, 64, a retired small-business owner, in the race for the district’s lone state Senate seat, a four-year position.

Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at

Last modified: November 07. 2012 6:12PM
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