ELECTION — Kler, Toepper appear headed for November Jefferson commissioner contest
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Commissioner candidates Dan Toepper and Kathleen Cler chat at a community development open house on Monday, the day before Tuesday’s primary. —Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND— Kathleen Kler and Dan Toepper appeared to claim the top positions in the race to succeed John Austin, who is retiring as District 3 JeffersonCounty commissioner.

Kler, 64, a Quilcene Democrat, had 1.398 votes, or 45.48 percent.

Toepper, 54, of Port Ludlow, who filed with no party preference, had 683 votes, or 22.22 percent.

Alexander “Andy” Borgeson, 45, a Port Ludlow independent, took 530 votes, or 17.24 percent.

Joe Baisch, 66, of Brinnon, who filed with no party preference, earned 455 votes, or 14.8 percent.

The top two vote-getters will advance to a final showdown in the Nov. 4 general election.

“I was surprised to see all the precinct results and gratified to see that all of my hard work had paid off,” Kler said.

“I’m grateful for the trust shown by this primary vote, and am excited to bring this county’s citizen power all the way through to the November election.”

Toepper said that he was confident that he would be in the top two, and had already packed his car full of signs to take to this weekend’s Jefferson County Fair.

“I worked pretty hard so I was expecting this,” he said. “But you never know until you’ve seen the votes.”

Countywide, the Jefferson County auditor counted 9,639 ballots out of 22,851 mailed to registered voters, for an Election Night turnout of 42 percent.

A total of 300 ballots were on hand but uncounted Tuesday. Auditor Donna M. Eldridge expects about 2,000 ballots to come in by mail this week and predicts a total turnout of 55 percent to 57 percent.

The next count is scheduled for noon Friday but could take place on Thursday due to the close margins in the sheriff’s race, Eldridge said.

Kler and Toepper will most likely advance to the Nov. 5 general election, Eldridge said.

The contest is to replace District 3 Democrat Austin, 73, who served two terms and isn’t seeking re-election.

Only voters in the district — which includes Port Ludlow, Quilcene, Brinnon, Shine and Gardiner in East Jefferson County as well as West Jefferson County — voted in the primary with 3,314 of 7,492 ballots counted, representing a 44.2 percent voter turnout.

The new commissioner will be selected with a countywide vote.

Kler, a retired nurse, was the first to announce her candidacy, going public at a March 18 event in Quilcene where Austin first announced that he would not seek a third term.

Baisch, a south county entrepreneur, and Toepper, a retired heavy equipment operator, announced their candidacies during the early part of filing week, May 12-16.

Borgeson, an Air Force veteran, announced and filed May 16.

The four-year position earns an annual salary of $63,296, which is due for an increase on Jan. 1, 2017, at which time it is expected to be 47 percent of a yet to be determined Superior Court judge’s salary.

Using the current figures under the formula, the commissioners would then receive a $73,951 salary, a 15.6 percent increase over the current salary level that has not been raised since 2008.

This became a campaign issue, with all of the candidates except Kler saying they would not accept the raise amount.

Baisch said he’d use the money to support local schools while Toepper and Borgeson said they would contribute the raise amount to support local charities.

Other issues that surfaced during the campaign included the need to develop new jobs in the district and finding a way to better represent the district in Port Townsend.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 05. 2014 10:22PM
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