PORT ANGELES — Ann Marie Henninger, an Olympic Medical Center hospital commissioner candidate, has been spared being taken off the general election ballot.
Clallam County Superior Court Judge Lauren Erickson decided Thursday not to remove Henninger’s name, rejecting a claim by Sequim resident Michelle Ridgway that Henninger was ineligible to run for the position.
Erickson threw out Ridgway’s assertion that Henninger did not live in District 1 when she filed for office on the May 17 deadline, allowing her to continue her run for the six-year office against opponent Nate Adkisson, whom she beat handily in the three-person Aug. 5 primary election.
Erickson ruled that Henninger lived at 425 Sunnyside Ave., which is inside the district, as of May 17, when she filed for the position.
“I’m relieved and I’m looking forward to campaigning,” Henninger said after the ruling.
“That’s my focus now.”
According to her testimony, Henninger made a concerted effort to establish her residency inside the district shortly before the May 17 candidate-filing deadline.
She testified that between May 9 and 11, she moved from 322 Klahhane Road, which is outside the district, to the Sunnyside Avenue address, while her husband and three sons remained at the Klahhane Road address.
She changed her voter registration to the Sunnyside Avenue address May 12 or May 13, she said.
Henninger said that the Sunnyside Avenue house, which she and her husband bought in July 2018, does not have hot water but will this week.
She moved into the unfinished house in May, while it was being remodeled, she said.
“That was to be able to fulfill the requirements to file to run for election for this position, and the remodeling was still in process,” Henninger testified.
Her sons and husband, Ray, an uncontested candidate for county Park and Recreation District (SARC) commissioner, moved into the Sunnyside Avenue house in August, she said. Ray Henninger changed his voter registration effective Aug. 7.
Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin, representing Ridgeway, tried to establish that Henninger had “an intent” to move to Sunnyside Avenue without fulfilling the legal requirement of being a resident on the day she filed. That is not enough to establish residency, he said.
Schromen-Wawrin, also a Port Angeles City Council member, pointed to her low water and electric bills.
He asked Henninger where she took showers, as she lacked hot water, and at times had sharp exchanges with Henninger’s attorney, William Payne of Sequim, who said some of the questions unnecessarily delved into his client’s “personal life.”
“One does not need hot water to shower,” Henninger said.
“Where does your dog reside?” Schromen-Wawrin asked her to soft laughter from the gallery.
Henninger said the dog lived at both addresses, moving in with her on Sunnyside later in May.
“The burden is on her to show she changed her residence to Sunnyside,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
“All we have is her saying she resided there.
“This goes to the issue of whether she resided there or not.”
Payne responded that there was no evidence that Henninger did not live on Sunnyside Avenue.
“There are all sorts of things people do to not use the electricity and water,” Payne said.
People buy bottled water and use generators, he said.
At one point, with Schromen-Wawrin hammering at why Henninger moved to Sunnyside Avenue and Payne objecting, Erickson admonished the two lawyers.
“Stop arguing!” Erickson said.
“She testified she moved in to run for office.”
In her ruling, Erickson said she believes Henninger was a resident of District 1 as of May 17 when she filed for the District 1 position.
“I think she has met her burden,” Erickson said.
“Going back and forth does not establish that she doesn’t live there.”
Erickson extensively quoted the 1999 state Supreme Court case Dumas V. Gagner (tinyurl.com/PDN-ResidencyCase).
“Election contests are governed by several general principles,” according to the ruling.
“Chief among them is the principle, long followed by this Court, that the judiciary should ‘exercise restraint in interfering with the elective process which is reserved to the people in the state constitution.’
“Unless an election is clearly invalid, ‘when the people have spoken, their verdict should not be disturbed by the courts …’ ”
“In particular, statutes establishing qualifications for office are to be construed to ‘unfetter the process of election’ rather than ‘curtail the freedom to stand for office.’ ”
Henninger won 58 percent of the vote in the Aug. 6 primary to Adkisson’s 23 percent and Warren Pierce’s 18 percent.
She faces Adkisson on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.
Payne said he would seek $5,000 in attorney’s fees from Ridgway.
Ridgway, a supporter of Adkisson, maintained after the hearing that Henninger had been “dishonest” about where she lived.
“I’ve known for a fact that I’ve driven past there and they have not been there until our first meeting Aug. 5,” Ridgway said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].