By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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After general election votes were tabulated Tuesday night, incumbent Port Angeles-area District 2 County Commissioner Mike Chapman, no party preference, held a commanding margin over Republican Maggie Roth of Port Angeles.
Also ahead were incumbent county Public Utility District Commissioner Ted Simpson, who was defeating challenger Cindy Kelly, and county Superior Court judge candidate and Forks-area county District Court Judge Erik Rohrer, who was ahead of challenger Chris Melly.
Melly conceded the race to Rohrer on Tuesday night for the Superior Court Position 1 seat held by Judge Ken Williams, who is retiring.
County Auditor Patty Rosand said, “I don’t expect the results to change much.”
On Wednesday, 3,487 ballots were received in the Auditor’s Office.
That brings the total to 35,838 ballots returned from 47,157 issued, for a 76 percent turnout.
The election must be certified Nov. 27.
The county Auditor’s Office is hoping to count all ballots from Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday on Friday, Rosand said.
In other races, incumbent Democratic 24th District state Reps. Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege and Democratic state Sen. Jim Hargrove all were leading by large margins against their opponents in the initial count of the all-mail election Tuesday night.
Ballots in the district, which includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County, will next be tabulated Friday.
And Port Angeles native Derek Kilmer, 38, a Gig Harbor Democrat, had a large lead over Bill Driscoll, 50, a Tacoma Republican, for the seat held by 18-term 6th Congressional District Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, who is retiring.
As of Tuesday night, Rohrer, 54, had 12,210 votes, or 56 percent, to 9,544 votes, or 44 percent, to Melly, 61, the county hearing examiner.
Rohrer will be joining Superior Court Judges George L. Wood and S. Brooke Taylor after his swearing-in ceremony in January.
He was retrieving hundreds of campaign signs Wednesday, he said during a telephone interview.
“I’m looking forward to working with Judge Wood and Judge Taylor, both of whom I’ve known for many years,” Rohrer said.
“I’m looking forward to the challenges, to the type of work that’s handled at the Superior Court level.
“In the immediate future, I’m hoping to meet with the three judges and work on the transition with them.”
Rohrer, who lives on the West End, has no plans to move to Port Angeles, as his wife, Cari, is a teacher for the Quillayute Valley School District and works in Forks, he said.
After he is sworn in in January, Rohrer will attend a week of state Administrative Office of the Court Judicial College training, said S. Brooke Taylor, Superior Court’s presiding judge.
After his Judicial College training, Rohrer will “shadow” Taylor and Wood for a few weeks and gradually be worked into daily court calendars.
“I would expect him to have a full load by the end of February,” Taylor said.
“No matter what you’ve been doing, it’s a pretty steep learning curve going from any other position to this position,” Taylor said.
As the presiding judge, Taylor assigns cases when the need arises, though it usually doesn’t in a three-Superior-Court-judge county such as Clallam, he said.
In Clallam County, the criminal, civil and other cases adjudicated in Superior Court are written on red, green and blue cards that are picked randomly by Judges Taylor and Williams and Judge George L. Wood.
“I’m the green judge, and Wood is the blue judge,” Taylor said.
Rohrer will inherit Williams’ red card, Taylor said.
“It’s a way of making sure there’s a random, equal distribution of the case load,” he said.
If Tuesday night’s numbers against Roth hold up for Chapman, his challenges include maintaining a balanced budget for 2013, maintaining the current level of services and 2013 union negotiations, he said.
“The numbers look really good, and it’s too big a lead to change,” Chapman, 49, of Port Angeles said Wednesday.
He led Roth, 58, with 15,290 votes, or 62 percent, to Roth’s 9,516 votes, or 38 percent.
“In my mind, the trend has been established, but I can wait until the election is certified.”
Roth was holding out hope that Chapman’s 5,774-vote lead would vanish.
“Let’s wait and see what happens with the ballots,” she said.
“I can’t change the outcome, but who knows? We’ll see how it goes.”
Despite his large lead, Chapman was surprised by the result, he said.
“It’s always surprising when you win,” he said.
“This is an incredibly humbling experience.”
Chapman said a key to keeping the county budget intact is keeping in place 16 furlough days in 2014, a move that saved the county $1.8 million this year.
“We’re going to have to ask for a continuation of that,” he said.
“We have to live within our means.”
Simpson, a PUD commissioner since 1985 and owner of Angeles Electric Inc., defeated Kelly for the six-year term in 2006 and had 9,897 votes, or 58 percent, to Kelly’s 7,252 votes, or 42 percent, as of Tuesday night.
“It was a very pleasant surprise, and I’m tickled,” Simpson, 70, said of the results.
The PUD faces budget challenges, too.
Simpson said the Bonneville Power Administration is increasing power costs to customers such as the Clallam PUD by 9.5 percent in 2013, which could have an impact on electric rates beginning in January.
Bonneville power purchases account for a third of PUD expenditures, he said.
Simpson also said Clallam’s PUD should approach the state Legislature on softening the requirements of clean-energy Initiative 937, which was approved by voters in 2006.
It requires the PUD to obtain 9 percent of its electricity from renewable resources such as wind and solar power by 2016 and 15 percent by 2020.
“We don’t need that power,” Simpson said.
In the 24th District, state Rep. 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 House 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.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at email@example.com.