Two races in question on eve of next vote count in Jefferson County

PORT TOWNSEND — Two questions remain unanswered on the eve of a second count of ballots in the Jefferson County primary election.

Did the Port Townsend levy lid lift for fire services really lose?

Who will face Jim Boyer in the Jefferson County District 3 race on the Nov. 2 ballot?

County Auditor Donna Eldridge said that her office wasn’t calling either race on Wednesday, but was instead awaiting the results of today’s count of outstanding ballots in Tuesday’s all-mail election.

The office will count 2,080 ballots today, with results to be announced by noon, “we hope,” Eldridge said Wednesday.

Of those, 741 ballots are from within the city of Port Townsend, where registered voters were asked to approve a property tax rate increase for fire services.

Tuesday’s tally found that 1,585, or 54.73 percent, opposed the measure — which would increase the city levy rate for fire services by 43 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation — while 1,311, or 45.27 approved it.

The difference is 274 votes.

So the outstanding ballots could be “enough to change the outcome” of the vote for the levy lid lift, Eldridge said.

A simple majority, 50 percent plus one vote, is needed for passage.

“We’re not calling that race,” Eldridge said.

Neither is her office calling the race for one of the two slots on the November ballot in the county commission District 3 race.

“Boyer will be the top vote-getter,” once all ballots are counted, Eldridge felt sure.

But incumbent John Austin’s slim lead over fellow Democrat Diane Johnson could change, she added.

Boyer, a 64-year-old Port Ludlow resident and home-building contractor, took 1,788 votes, or 47.11 percent, in Tuesday’s tally.

Austin, a retired 69-year-old Port Ludlow psychologist who is seeking a second term on the Jefferson County Commission, had 1,072 votes, or 28.25 percent, while Johnson, a 66-year-old Quilcene psychotherapist, had 935 votes, or 24.64 percent.

The difference in votes for Austin and Johnson was 137.

Today, elections officials will count 638 ballots from voters in District 3.

“Based on the number of ballots we have on hand, there is a possibility there will be a change,” Eldridge said.

The top-two primary advances the two candidates with the most votes, regardless of their party affiliation, to the Nov. 2 general election.

Only registered voters within the district vote in the primary. The vote in the general election will be countywide.

“It looks like a close race and I hope that I continue to maintain my lead,” Austin said Wednesday.

Johnson said Tuesday night that the results don’t change and she is dropped from the race, she would throw her support behind Boyer.

District 3 covers Southeast Jefferson County — Port Ludlow, Gardiner, Quilcene, Brinnon, then westerly to the Pacific Coast and includes the Hoh, Kalaloch and Queets communities.

The job pays $63,926 a year and provides a travel allowance of 50 cent a mile, plus county medical, optical and retirement benefits.

The rate that Port Townsend now dedicates to fire services from its general levy is 57 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The proposed increase would bring the rate the city devotes to fire services to $1 per $1,000 of assessed value, equal to that in the rest of East Jefferson County, where voters passed a similar measure in April.

Port Townsend is not part of the East Jefferson Fire-Rescue district. The city obtains fire and emergency medical services from the district through a services contract.

Eldridge said that she doubted that another count of ballots would be necessary before the election is certified on Sept. 1.

The office has 37 ballots with questionable signatures. If those are cleared up before certification, then those votes will be added to the tally.

As of Wednesday, the Auditor’s Office had received 12,415 ballots out of 21,704 mailed, for a voter turnout of 57.2 percent.

Last week, Eldridge had projected a 57 percent voter turnout in the primary election in Jefferson County.

In the 24th District, the line-up for November appears to be incumbent Democrat Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim and Republican real estate managing broker and consultant Dan Gase of Port Angeles for Position 1; with Sequim Democrat Steve Tharinger, who is a Clallam County commissioner, and Republican Jim McEntire, Port of Port Angeles commissioner, for Position 2.

The legislative district covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and the northern portion of Grays Harbor County.

Van De Wege had 56 percent, or 17,106 votes, while Gase had 26 percent, or 7,891 votes, in Tuesday’s count.

Republican Craig Durgan, 53, of Port Ludlow, took 19 percent, or 5,706 votes.

Tharinger, 61, leads 60-year-old McEntire 37.7 percent to 36.3 percent (11,344 to 10,924 votes).

Jack Dwyer and Larry Carter are a distant third and fourth, respectively, in the balloting.

Tharinger and McEntire are vying to replace retiring House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler.

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Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or leah.leach@peninsuladailynews.com.

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