PORT ANGELES — Democrat Ron Richards is poised to have a place on the Nov. 8 general election ballot for the Port Angeles-area District 2 Clallam County commission race, but the identity of his opponent is still too close to call.
Richards was the top choice in the first count of primary election ballots Tuesday , garnering 1,220 votes, or 37.54 percent, but independent Randy Johnson and Republican Gabe Rygaard are close as ballots continue to come into the Auditor’s office.
Johnson earned 805 votes, or 24.77 percent, and Rygaard won 717 votes, or 22.06 percent — a difference of 88 votes.
If the positions stay the same as more votes are counted this week in the all-mail election, Richards and Johnson will face off in the fall.
But with about 8,100 ballots left to count, all three candidates say not to count Rygaard out of the race just yet.
The Clallam County Auditor’s Office counted 10,941 ballots Tuesday out of 49,026 mailed to registered voters, for a voter turnout of 22.35 percent.
In Washington’s top-two primary, the two candidates who receive the most primary election votes advance to the November general election, regardless of party affiliation.
‘A rally coming’
“I think what you’re seeing in the first round of voting is the establishment vote and I’ve got a rally coming and I’m going to pull this out,” Rygaard said, adding that the difference between him and Johnson was “not many votes.”
Rygaard’s family-owned Rygaard Logging Inc. was featured on History Channel’s “Ax Men.” He is the owner of Ryfield Properties Inc., Port Angeles and of Penny Creek Quarry of Quilcene.
He said that many people he knows mailed in their ballots last-minute and is optimistic he’ll pull ahead after the next ballot count, which will be by 4:30 p.m. Friday.
“It’s going to be Randy or myself who make it through (to the general election),” he said. “Whichever one makes it through will have a good run to make it on the commission.”
If Rygaard moves on to the general election, he believes he can pick up a large number of votes that would have gone to Johnson or Republican Maggie Roth, who also ran for the office.
Roth got 508 votes, or 15.63 percent, in Tuesday’s count.
Johnson — the former president of the timberland and wood products company Green Crow Corp. of Port Angeles and current chairman of the board — said he is pleased with the early results.
Johnson, who said he registered to run for the office on the last day he could, said he was surprised at how well he has been able to do in his first run for public office.
“Many people helped me with the campaign,” he said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
Johnson pointed to his cross-party appeal for his success, adding that he doesn’t feel county commission seats should be partisan.
So far, Johnson has raised $22,650.99 for his campaign, about twice as much as Rygaard and Richards.
He said that because he started campaigning so late, he needed that additional boost in funding to get his message out to voters.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of choice but to advertise,” he said. “How else do you get your name out there?”
Richards, who raised $10,773.58, said he wasn’t concerned Johnson had raised more money for his campaign.
“If you spend too much money it looks bad,” he said.
Richards said he is comfortable with his lead over both Rygaard and Johnson and expects to be in the general election.
Richards served in the county commission seat from 1976-80 and is a commercial fisherman.
“I’m really happy to have come out on top,” he said. “I look forward to a good general election campaign with either Randy or Gabe.”
Several races on the primary ballot were “beauty contests,” meaning they were between only two candidates, and no matter what the primary outcome, both will be on the November Ballot.
For more information on election outcomes, see the Clallam County Auditor’s website at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-clallamprimary and the Washington Secretary of State website at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-primaryresults.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5550, or at [email protected].