PORT ANGELES — Downtown business owner Jake Oppelt dropped out of the race for a Port Angeles City Council Position 2 seat Monday — just two weeks before ballots are mailed to voters in the general election — becoming the second candidate to withdraw from the election after getting enough votes to get past the primary.
Oppelt said Monday that when the Nov. 7 election occurs, he will not be living in the city limits, making him an ineligible candidate.
Oppelt’s departure virtually ensures the election of his general election opponent, downtown business owner Mike French, just as Position 1 candidate Todd Negus’ Aug. 17 withdrawal guaranteed victory for Negus’ general election opponent, Jim Moran.
That leaves two contested City Council races when once there were four.
Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin is running against Artur Wojnowski vying for Position 3, and Travis Berglund is running against Kate Dexter for Position 4.
Ballots will be mailed to voters Oct. 18.
Oppelt said he and his family, including his 3-month-old son, are moving just outside the city boundary while the sale of his house inside the city limits closes.
French and Oppelt were the top vote-getters in the Aug. 1 primary, qualifying for the general election.
Position 2 one-term incumbent Lee Whetham came in third in the Aug. 1 primary.
Oppelt, who threw his support Monday behind French, said he is moving within a mile of the city limits and is building a house in the city that he may move into once it’s completed.
The house he is living in is on the verge of selling, Oppelt said.
“My house is under contract and is now set to close,” he said.
“I had to make arrangements to move.
“It’s supposed to be temporary, month to month, until we get the next thing done.
“There’s no exemption or any kind of looophole as far as intent to move back to the city, or whatnot.
“It would have left me a week before the election being basically an illegal candidate.
“I don’t know what legal and honest way there is around it.”
Oppelt said he has known for “a couple of weeks” that the residence he is moving to is outside the city limits but was trying to determine if there was an exemption for a temporary residence that would have allowed him to remain as an eligible candidate.
There wasn’t, he said.
The address of Oppelt’s voter registration will change right before the election, making him ineligible, Oppelt said.
“The timing right before the election leaves me in a non-resident city status at that point in time,” Oppelt said.
“I got stuck between a rock and hard place as far as where I was at.
“I’m not going to do it dishonestly and say I live in a different house.”
In the primary, French garnered 39 percent of the vote (1,449 votes), Oppelt had 34 percent (1,281 votes) and Whetham had 27 percent (1,003 votes).
Oppelt on Monday dismissed Whetham’s chances of defeating French had Oppelt dropped out earlier.
“Lee Whetham never had a chance,” he said.
“He never was able to get out of the primary.
“That pretty much shows his support was gone.”
Oppelt said he was not concerned that Whetham might feel shortchanged by Oppelt dropping out of the race so late.
“Lee Whetham’s feelings on this issue are of no concern of mine,” Oppelt said.
“I ran because our city needed new, strong council members.”
Oppelt endorsed French for the position Monday.
“The mission is accomplished in getting new council members up there,” Oppelt said.
Whetham, the only one of four incumbents who ran for re-election, said Monday he does not intend to file as a write-in candidate, the deadline for which is Oct. 20.
“The voters chose to go another way,” Whetham said.
French said he is disappointed that the general election race is no longer competitive.
If Whetham waged a write-in campaign, “that would be totally fair,” French said.
French said that on Monday he ran into Berglund and jokingly asked him if he was dropping out of the general election race, too.
“He said ‘no,’ ” French said.
“No, I’m not going anywhere,” Berglund confirmed Monday.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].