Jefferson County Prosecutor-elect James Kennedy, his wife Krystal and three sons — Sol, left, baby Miles and Collin, were present at the Jefferson County Courthouse on Tuesday night to learn he had defeated incumbent Michael Haas. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Jefferson County Prosecutor-elect James Kennedy, his wife Krystal and three sons — Sol, left, baby Miles and Collin, were present at the Jefferson County Courthouse on Tuesday night to learn he had defeated incumbent Michael Haas. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Jefferson County to get new prosecuting attorney

PORT TOWNSEND — James M. Kennedy has defeated one-term incumbent Michael Haas in a challenge for the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney/Coroner post.

Kennedy won 9,699 votes, or 59.69 percent, while Haas won 6,549 votes, or 40.31 percent after a second count of ballots on Wednesday following the initial count on Tuesday of general election ballots. Results are not expected to change for the two Democrats in the next count Friday.

The Auditor’s Office counted 19,973 ballots, or 78.63 percent of the 25,4112 ballots provided registered voters in the all-mail election Tuesday night.

So far, Jefferson County has the highest voter turnout in the state. Statewide voter turnout was 47.99 percent on Wednesday.

Kennedy, 37, of Port Ludlow, is a Clallam County deputy prosecuting attorney who previously worked for Haas in 2016. He spent almost six years in the Army, achieving the rank of captain, and served two tours in Iraq.

Kennedy said he is ready to take on the challenges of the office, but will do so with thoughtfulness. He’s not in a rush to change.

“One of the things I was taught in the Army is when you take over, you avoid making any major decisions in the first month or so,” Kennedy said. “It’s a time to observe and listen. When you do that, you learn.

“If you make major decisions before you’ve learned anything, it’s probably not going to be a great decision.

“The plan is to be in observation mode for a couple months. I want to see what changes have been made during the time I departed and make adjustments as needed.”

Prosecutor Haas, 47, said he was disappointed by the election results.

“I feel I ran a good race and we kept it clean,” the Port Townsend resident said. ”I worked hard, and am grateful to those who worked with me on my campaign.”

He gave credit to his wife, Heather, “probably the most patient person on the planet,” for her support.

“I contacted James last night [Tuesday] and congratulated him. I told him I’ll provide a smooth transition between our administrations.”

Kennedy attended the vote count announcement at the Jefferson County Courthouse on Tuesday with his wife, Krystal, and sons Sol, Collin and infant Miles.

“When the results were read, it frankly was a relief,” he said. “This is something that has been in the works for a long time. A lot of people put a lot of effort into it.”

In reflecting on the last four years, Haas said he was honored to work with a “fine group of professionals.”

“The most difficult part for me will be missing the great team we put together to serve Jefferson County. They all are incredibly hard-working, talented individuals. I’m hoping that I’ve laid the groundwork to hire an additional civil deputy prosecutor. We need one.”

Haas said his plans include spending time with his wife and four children.

“I have a number of great options for future consideration and am in a good position to leverage my work as prosecutor. I’m also looking into some nonprofit, feel-good work.”

Kennedy said his transition to Jefferson County has been planned carefully so as not to interrupt his work in Clallam County.

“The circumstances that I’m leaving my current job are some of the best imaginable. My boss has had several months to think of possible replacements.”

“No one likes to lose an employee, but these are probably the best circumstances I could give an employer.”

Kennedy said he has some cases he’s wrapping up and believes the transition will be seamless.

“I’m going to hand over my caseloads to my co-workers and I want to get that tied up as much as I can. I have one really big case that might go to trial in December. If I have to take it to trial, that’s what I’m prepared to do.”

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]

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