Top two by default: Port Townsend City Council candidate eliminated over residency law

PORT TOWNSEND — And then there were two.

Pamela Adams, a candidate for the Port Townsend City Council seat to be vacated by Laurie Medlicott, withdrew Wednesday after she was told by the Jefferson County Auditor’s Office that she had not lived in the city long enough to meet residency requirements.

“Obviously if I had known, I would never have gone ahead with the campaign,” Adams said in an email.

“I’m shocked and very disappointed, I was enjoying the competition and the opportunity to meet and speak to the voters.”

Adams is the second candidate to withdraw from the race, which originally drew four candidates, setting up the November election.

Paul Richmond withdrew Tuesday, citing an increase in law office business and a subsequent inability to devote the needed time to an election campaign.

The names of Adams, a retired chiropractor, and Richmond, a Port Townsend attorney, remain on the Aug. 16 primary election ballot along with the remaining active candidates: 2011 Heart of Service Award winner Deborah Stinson and investigator Jack Range.

The primary ballot has already been printed, and the 6,815 ballots will be mailed to voters Wednesday, said Jefferson County Auditor Donna Eldridge.

The top two vote-getters in the primary will advance to the Nov. 8 general election.

Both Adams and Richmond missed the June 17 deadline to withdraw from the race.

If Richmond won the seat, he would either serve or resign, Eldridge has said.

If Adams won, she could not serve.

Elections Director Karen Cartmel said it is not the auditor’s responsibility to inform candidates of the law.

“Whenever a candidate files, we make sure they are registered voters in the district they want to represent, but we do not ask them about how long they’ve lived in the district,” Cartmel said.

“Determining whether they fit residency requirements is not the auditor’s responsibility.”

Adams said Cartmel phoned her with the news Wednesday afternoon.

The relevant state law, RCW 35A.12.030, says candidates must live in the jurisdiction they seek to represent for one year prior to the date of the election.

Adams moved to Port Townsend in February and filed for the City Council seat in June, one week after registering to vote.

The statute specifically mentions cities operating under a mayor-council system, also known as a “strong mayor” form of government, in which the mayor manages the city and has the power to hire and fire staff.

That led Eldridge to conclude that the law did not affect Adams’ candidacy, since Port Townsend is a council-manager city in which administrative duties are in the hands of a city manager.

After calling Secretary of State Sam Reed’s office, Eldridge received an interpretation that the residency requirement applied to Adams, and she directed Cartmel to contact Adams.

The matter was originally brought to the attention of the Peninsula Daily News by Andrew Reding, a former Port Townsend resident who wrote the newspaper an email Tuesday challenging the legality of Adams’ candidacy.

That prompted questions from the PDN.

Reding, a human rights expert for the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services who lives in Bellingham, said his contacting the media about Adams’ candidacy was not politically or personally motivated.

He said he was talking with friends who mentioned that a candidate for the Port Townsend City Council had lived in the city for a short time, so he researched the statute.

“I have never talked to Pamela Adams and would probably agree with her on many things if I did,” he said.

“But I didn’t think she fulfilled the requirements of the office.”

Medlicott announced in May that she would not seek a third term.

The cost of the primary election will range between $11,585 and $13,630, according to Eldridge.

Adams said Wednesday she had not yet decided if she would attend three forums for Port Townsend City Council candidates that are scheduled next week:

■ The Rotary Club is sponsoring a forum at noon Tuesday at the Northwest Maritime Center, 431 Water St.

■ The Jefferson County Democrats will host a forum at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Port Townsend Community Center, 620 Tyler St.

■ The League of Women Voters will hold a forum at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Masonic Temple, 1338 Jefferson St.

________

Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]

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