PORT ANGELES — Candidates in the race for the Clallam County Commissioner Position 3 seat say the contest is too close to call now and both are awaiting the next ballot count Friday.
Incumbent Bill Peach, a Beaver Republican, is leading in the race against former commissioner Mike Doherty Jr., a Port Angeles Democrat, in the initial ballot count Tuesday night.
Peach, 63, was leading 2,693 to 2,370 over Doherty, 75, a percentage difference of 53.19 to 46.81.
They both said Tuesday they expected a close race. Peach wasn’t declaring victory and Doherty wasn’t conceding.
“I anticipated it was going to be a close election and that’s exactly what occurred,” Peach said. “It’s not over.”
The Clallam County Auditor’s Office said that an estimated 7,000 ballots are left to count. The next count in the all-mail election will be at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Peach said he is anticipating votes from the West End will be counted in the coming days, votes he hopes will be in support of him.
Doherty said he was disappointed at Peach’s lead of more than 6 points, but he thinks it’s still possible his campaign could pull ahead as votes are counted.
“I think everyone’s votes need to be honored and we’ll see,” Doherty said when asked if he has conceded. “We had a lot of good people helping us. I think it’s important to run through the whole count.”
During the primary election in August, Doherty initially was ahead 1,937 to 1,804 against Peach, but after all the votes were counted Peach pulled ahead by 13 votes.
Initial results Tuesday showed Doherty won four precincts, three of which were in Port Angeles. He also won the Neah Bay precinct.
Peach won 16 precincts, including in Port Angeles, Beaver, Clallam Bay, Joyce, Forks and others.
Doherty said a key issue in the race was climate change, especially with voters also deciding on Initiative 1631 concerning a fee on carbon emissions.
“That may have had a toll,” he said. “I don’t know if the average citizens are that informed on the issue as far as the future impacts and how we have to adapt.”
Peach said in a forum last month that he believes climate change is real, but that humans are having a “minuscule” contribution.
Doherty believes humans are having a much more significant impact.
“People were asking questions at almost every forum,” Doherty said. “That probably had an influence on the outcome.”
Doherty said West End voters also seem to have a lot of loyalty to the candidate who is a full-time resident there.
Peach said he was impressed with voter turnout. The Clallam County Auditor’s Office reported voter turnout for this election at 44.5 percent.
Including the 7,000 uncounted ballots, voter turnout in Clallam County was about 69 percent. The auditor’s office has counted 23,440 ballots so far.
“I wish Mike all the best,” Peach said. “It’s not over, but I do wish him well.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].