Jefferson-Clallam differences — and similarities — highlighted by election

The residents of Clallam and Jefferson counties have more in common than they don’t — except for politics.

They share a 100-mile border, earn median family incomes of between $44,000 and $46,000 and have a median age of between 44 and 47.

The counties also grew at similar rates in every five-year period from 1970-2000, according to the 2000 census.

Yet Clallam voters selected Republican President George W. Bush by 51 percent-46 percent, while Jefferson County voters sided with Democrat Sen. John Kerry, 62 percent-36 percent.

The contrast seeped to state and county races.

In Clallam, 54 percent of voters chose Republican Dino Rossi, while in Jefferson, 59 percent chose his opponent, Democrat Chris Gregoire, who has emerged the apparent governor-elect after three recounts.

Jefferson voters also rejected sitting Republican County Commissioner Dan Titterness in favor of Democrat Phil Johnson, and three-term incumbent Republican Glen Huntingford in favor of David Sullivan.

Johnson and Sullivan will be sworn in this Friday.

But in Clallam, moderate Republican Mike Chapman faced no Democratic challenger after right-leaning opposition from within his own party fizzled.

Both counties will have two Democrats and one Republican on their county boards — the Clallam lineup remains Chapman and Democrats Steve Tharinger and Mike Doherty — but even that similarity seems only skin deep.

“I see the counties as being quite different, even though, yes, they are right next to each other,” state Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt said.

“I notice it all the time. They are radically different counties.”

Why?

The PDN posed this question to a dozen party activists and politicians in both counties.

The reasons center on which party outworked the other and drew out the party faithful, who raised the most money — and a few intangibles.

“My sense is that (Jefferson) has a lot of commuters to Kitsap, and Jefferson County is a lot like north Kitsap, which is fairly Democratic,” Berendt said.

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