GOP leaders seek state district seat

Two target Chapman’s position in 24th

Matthew Rainwater.

Matthew Rainwater.

PORT ANGELES — The Nov. 8 general election is 11 months away, and the 24th Legislative District’s two Democrats already have challengers.

Retired Border Patrol Agent Matthew Rainwater this week became the second Republican Party leader to take on incumbent 24th District state Rep. Mike Chapman of Port Angeles.

The former Clallam County GOP Chair, a Port Angeles resident, joins current county Chair Sue Forde of Sequim in running for the two-year Position 1 seat Chapman has held for 2½ terms, Rainwater said this week.

That opens the door to a top-two Aug. 2 primary election contest that likely will pit Rainwater or Forde against Chapman in the general election, Rainwater said.

“No matter who it’s going to be, it will be a Republican that is strong and will be a more effective leader and voice in the 24th District than Mike Chapman is,” he said Tuesday.

“Providing options for voters out there during the primary is never a bad thing.”

The district, which includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and about half of Grays Harbor County, also has a contested race for the House Position 2 seat held by six-term Democrat Steve Tharinger of Port Townsend, who filed for re-election with the state Public Disclosure Commission in April.

Filing with the PDC allows candidates to collect campaign contributions.

Republican Brian Pruiett of Carlsborg, who ran unsuccessfully against Tharinger in 2020, filed Oct. 8 for another try. Tharinger filed in April.

Chapman, himself a former Republican, and Tharinger won their elections in 2020 by 54 percent to 46 percent margins.

Pruiett won Clallam County by 50 votes and took Grays Harbor County, while Tharinger won Jefferson County, 69 percent to 31 percent.

Chapman won Clallam and Jefferson counties and lost Grays Harbor County.

Chapman was sanctioned by the county Republican Party in 2007 when, as a Republican county commissioner, he supported Tharinger, then a Clallam County commissioner.

“I don’t know if it goes back to me being kicked out of the Republican Party,” Chapman said of two GOP leaders seeking his legislative seat.

Rainwater, 50, who applied for but was not selected to fill the late Jim Moran’s Port Angeles City Council position, said Tuesday he plans to file his candidacy soon with the PDC.

Rainwater is founder and president of Pennies for Quarters, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has purchased land for tiny homes for homeless veterans. He offered to resign while running for office, but the board voted unanimously to keep him as president, Rainwater said.

He was critical of Chapman’s voting record on gun control and said the former Clallam County commissioner has made it harder for law enforcement to do its job. He declined to discuss any communication he has had with Forde.

Rainwater also declined to describe how they differ politically.

“That’s something that voters will have plenty of opportunity between now and the primaries on [deciding],” he said.

Rainwater retired from the Border Patrol in March. He was GOP party chair for six months in 2019 before having to quit his two-year term due to work commitments serving on the southern border, former party Chair Dick Pilling said at the time.

Forde, 75, who ran unsuccessfully against then-Clallam County Commissioner Tharinger in 2003 and Chapman in 2020, filed for the House position Sept. 29. As of Monday, she had raised $7,140, including a $2,580 starting balance.

“I was sort of aware [Rainwater] might run,” Forde said Tuesday, adding Ranwater approached her earlier this year about potentially seeking election but did not know which seat he might vie for.

She said she has had little contact with Rainwater other than her Dyanmic Graphics Website Design donating startup services to his Pennies for Quarters organization.

Forde said she has been meeting with small groups of voters districtwide as she revs up her campaign.

Tuesday she criticized what she termed the Democratic legislative majority’s high taxes despite a budget surplus and said she is focusing her message as well on school choice and accountable government.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m running my campaign and I’m doing what I’m doing no matter at this point what anyone else is doing,” she said.

“It will be interesting,” added Forde, who founded the conservative online publication Citizen Review, which she said she has not been affiliated with since 2019.

Chapman said he found it strange that two GOP leaders would run against him, calling Forde “a formidable candidate” who works hard.

“They will have a good battle, I would assume,” he said.

“I am running to keep working hard. I am running for this district.”

Chapman, noting he could still be challenged by a Democrat, pointed to his chairmanship of the Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, his work on transportation funding and allocations for such projects as those of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula and the Elwha Bridge as examples of leadership and bipartisan nature.

“I wouldn’t think the chairs of the Republican Party would have anything good to say about me,” Chapman said.

“What I would love to hear is what they would do differently.”

Chapman has raised $59,200 since he filed with the PDC June 30.

Pruiett has raised $610, while Tharinger has raised $30,743, with a starting balance of $6,293.

Pruiett and Tharinger could not be reached for comment late Tuesday afternoon.

Candidate filing week for the Nov. 8 election begins May 16. Numerous countywide positions are up for election in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

________

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

Sue Forde.

Sue Forde.

State Rep. Mike Chapman.

State Rep. Mike Chapman.

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