Incumbent concedes election; Whetham says ‘voters have spoken’

Mike French

PORT ANGELES — The lone Port Angeles City Council incumbent in the Aug. 1 primary election conceded defeat Wednesday in light of Tuesday evening’s initial ballot count.

One-term Position 2 Councilman Lee Whetham, with 804 votes and 26.25 percent of the total cast after the tally, said the gap was too great to overtake Mike French (1,207 votes, 39.41 percent) and Jacob Oppelt (1,052 votes, 34.35 percent).

Mike French

Jake Oppelt

French and Oppelt, two downtown Port Angeles business owners, will be on the Nov. 7 general election ballot with Position 1 leaders Jim Moran (1,359 votes, 45.87 percent) and second-place finisher Todd Negus (1,018 votes, 34.37 percent) as a result of the ballot count.

Jim Moran

Todd Negus

Moran and Negus, vying for the seat held by incumbent Brad Collins, who is not running for re-election, far outdistanced third-place finisher Marolee Smith (586 votes, 19.78 percent).

Whetham’s departure sets the stage for four new council members to take office after the Nov. 7 general election.

That’s because two other races with two candidates each are already on the Nov. 7 ballot, which will be mailed to voters Oct. 18.

Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin will face Artur Wojnowski for the Position 3 seat being vacated by Mayor Patrick Downie, while Travis Berglund and Kate Dexter are running for the Position 4 seat held by Dan Gase, who is not running for re-election.

By 4:30 p.m. Friday, the Clallam County elections office will count the ballots collected Tuesday from drop boxes and postmarked Tuesday through Friday.

“It doesn’t look good for the home team,” Whetham said.

“The proper thing is to concede.

“The voters have spoken, and I’m getting my head around it.

“I want what’s best for Port Angeles, and that’s the bottom line.”

French, 35, said Wednesday he will spend under the $5,000 state Public Disclosure Commission nonreporting limit on his campaign and will concentrate on going door to door and attending voter forums.

“I do think Port Angeles voters were looking for a change,” said French, a Port Angeles native and owner of First Street Haven restaurant.

“You can kind of see that none of the other incumbents even filed to run.

“You had a lot of rancor last year in the City Council.

“Jake and I, we look young, we are smart businessmen. You need the voice of a younger generation.”

Oppelt did not return calls for comment Wednesday on the primary election results but issued a prepared statement.

“We sincerely appreciate the support from our community throughout the primary campaign process and we are very excited to gain more of it as we move into the general election,” the statement said.

“We will continue to stay positive and look forward as we bring a new, focused vision to the City of Port Angeles.”

French and Oppelt, 33, also a Port Angeles High School graduate and owner or co-owner of five downtown businesses as well as 20 percent co-owner of the Port Angeles Lefties, have similarities but also differences.

“I think Jake’s strength lies in the big picture,” French said. “I think I am a detail-oriented guy. That skill set is valued on the council.”

French described himself as “kind of a quiet businessman.

“That’s not a dig at Jake by any means, but I keep my nose down and don’t do any marketing, things like that.”

Moran, 68, a former Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce board president, said Wednesday he also will spend less than $5,000 and also will focus on going door to door to push his candidacy.

“I’m very happy,” he said of his first-place primary election finish.

“For my first time out of the box, I guess that’s not too bad.”

Moran, a Bayonne, N.J., native who moved from Kent to Port Angeles in 2008, is president of the third-party pension administration company 401(k) Co. Inc.

It was based in Port Angeles but now is centered in Olympia, with an office in Port Angeles, said Moran, who now plays a consulting role in the company’s operations.

Moran said he and Negus have similar views on many issues but that he is still looking forward to “a really good, interesting debate” as the campaign season progresses.

“The biggest difference, I would say, is my involvement in the community, and also I’m a veteran,” said Moran, a Vietnam War helicopter pilot.

“I think there is a need for veteran representation, let me put it that way, on the City Council.”

Negus, 49 and president of OSP Sling Inc., a Sequim company, said Wednesday he, too, is happy about the election results.

Unlike Moran, Negus said he expects to spend $8,000 to $10,000 to get elected.

“I’m self-funding at this point,” said Negus, who grew up in Michigan and is a 25-year Port Angeles resident.

He and Moran “have a lot of the same philosophies, and I respect him,” Negus added.

Negus is limited in his community activities by virtue of running a business, unlike Moran, Negus said.

“He definitely has more time on his hands these days than I do as far as donating personal time, since I can’t be out there every day,” Negus said.

Smith, the third Position 1 candidate, did not return calls for comment on the results.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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