By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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Reps. Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege and state Sen. Jim Hargrove were all leading by large margins in the initial count of the all-mail election. More ballots will be counted Friday.
The 24th legislative district includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and the northern two-thirds of Grays Harbor County. Clallam and Jefferson counties account for about three-quarters of voters in the district.
Tharinger, 63, of Sequim was far ahead of Republican challenger Steve Gale, 45, of Sequim, with 30,049 votes, or 58 percent, to Gale's 21,567 votes, or 42 percent, for Position 2.
Tharinger, who is seeking a second two-year term, was out of the country on a trip Tuesday and unavailable for comment.
“The campaign feels honored to have the voters affirm and send Steve back to Olympia to work on their behalf for another term,” said campaign manager Sam Gibboney of Port Townsend.
Tharinger had won all three counties in the Aug. 7 primary.
“While the results are not surprising, we always wait to see how the voters actually turn out,” Gibboney said.
Van De Wege, 38, of Sequim was winning his race for a third term with 32,367 votes, or 64 percent, to the 18,109 votes, or 36 percent, garnered by independent candidate Craig Durgan, 55, of Port Ludlow, in the race for Position 1, a two-year term.
“I'm happy that I was reelected to another term and happy to go to work serving the public and the district and do things I talked about in the campaign, work creating jobs, making public education the best it can be and work to make sure we have an efficient state government,” Van De Wege said.
Hargrove, 59, of Hoquiam was besting Port Ludlow resident Larry Carter, 64, a retired small-business owner, with 33,506 votes, or 66 percent, to Carter's 17,626 votes, or 34 percent, in the race for the district's lone state Senate seat, a four-year position.
Hargrove, a self-employed professional forester, has served in the state Senate since 1993 after filling a House seat from 1985 to 1992.
“I guess all I have to say is, I feel pleased that the constituents thought I was the better choice,” in the state Legislature since 1985, when he was a member of the House, Hargrove said.
“I've been in a long time, so people know a lot about me, so that's very gratifying,” he added.
Ballots in the state legislative races were among 26,870 counted Tuesday night by the Clallam County Auditor's Office; 47,157 ballots were mailed out countywide last month. The auditor's office also has 5,481 ballots in hand that are yet to be counted, for a total return of 32,351 votes, or 65.6 percent.
In addition to the 5,481 ballots on hand, Auditor Patty Rosand expects about 8,000 more ballots to come in today and Thursday for a final voter turnout of 86 percent.
The next Clallam vote count will be at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
The Jefferson County Auditor's Office counted 15,382 ballots out of 22,756 issued, for a voter turnout of 67.59 percent Tuesday night, county Auditor Donna Eldridge said.
The office has 2,560 on hand but uncounted and Auditor Donna Eldridge expects another 2,500 ballots to come in before the next count at about noon Friday, for a final voter turnout of 89.83 percent.
Vote totals in Clallam County for Tharinger were 13,746, or 53.8 percent, and 11,806 votes, or 46.2 percent, for Gale.
They were 15,067 votes, or 60.7 percent, for Van De Wege and 9,737, or 39 percent, for Durgan.
They were 15,460 votes, or 62 percent, for Hargrove and 9,423 votes, or 38 percent, for Carter.
Vote totals in Jefferson County were 9,606 votes, or 66.6 percent, for Tharinger and 4,808 votes, or 33.3 percent, for Gale.
They were 10,133 votes, or 71 percent, for Van De Wege and 4,096 votes, or 29 percent, for Durgan.
They were 10,066 votes, or 70 percent, for Hargrove and 4,295 votes, or 30 percent, for Carter.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.