PORT ANGELES — Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict handily won his fourth term during the general election, earning 73 percent of the votes in the initial count.
“The voters have spoken,” Benedict said. “They are happy with how the Sheriff’s Office is going and they are happy with me as sheriff.”
Benedict, 68, of Sequim said he wishes the best for his opponent and former employee Jim McLaughlin, 61, of Port Angeles.
Tuesday night the Clallam County Auditor’s Office counted 21,333 ballots in the race for sheriff. Of them, 15,596 votes, or 73.11 percent, were for Benedict and 5,737 votes, or 26.89 percent, were for McLaughlin.
The Clallam County Auditor’s Office said that an estimated 7,000 ballots are left to count, with the next count in the all-mail election by 4:30 p.m. Friday.
McLaughlin said Wednesday he was disappointed with the results, but that overall the campaign was a positive experience.
“Everyone I met … was positive and supportive,” McLaughlin said.
“The only opposition to anything positive was some of the comments my opponent made.”
He said the highlight of the campaign was when he spoke to the Makah and Lower Elwha Klallam tribal councils.
McLaughlin said he feels Clallam County lost in this election and that it should expect the Sheriff’s Office to remain the same as it has been.
“I’m sad for the county,” he said.
“Now you got what you’ve had and nothing is going to change.”
McLaughlin was a detective who had served the Sheriff’s Office for 13 years before retiring in 2016.
Benedict said he plans to keep the Sheriff’s Office on the same course it has been, but is focused on a number of goals as he goes into his next term.
Benedict said he would like to have an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) built so that the county could be better prepared for a disaster. The EOC is currently in the basement of the courthouse.
Benedict also wants to increase the quality of medical and mental health services provided at the jail.
He said there isn’t enough state or federal funding.
“I want to keep the trajectory of the department,” he said.
He also wants the department to continue with its accreditation.
Though McLaughlin attempted to unseat him, Benedict said he was grateful he was willing to run.
“The fact is, when people want to run for office, like Jim, it’s a good thing,” he said.
“Win or lose, I think we owe a lot of respect to people willing to go before the public and are willing to debate. My hat is off to Jim.”
McLaughlin said the election process is designed in a way that makes it difficult for candidates with less money.
“I think there are some unfair obstacles in the system because it does not put a level playing field out there for everyone,” he said.
“The more money you get the more you can do.”
McLaughlin said he was grateful that he ran and that he did not know what to expect before the ballots were counted.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.