Sequim City Council candidates with top votes as of Wednesday afternoon include, from left, Rachel Anderson, Vicki Lowe, Kathy Downer, Brandon Janisse and Lowell Rathbun. They gathered for about an hour after initial election results were announced Tuesday. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim City Council candidates with top votes as of Wednesday afternoon include, from left, Rachel Anderson, Vicki Lowe, Kathy Downer, Brandon Janisse and Lowell Rathbun. They gathered for about an hour after initial election results were announced Tuesday. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

A new majority coming on Sequim City Council

Downer, Rathbun, Janisse, Anderson, Lowe take top votes

SEQUIM — A mixture of relief and surprise were the reactions from Sequim City Council candidates following Tuesday night’s general election sweep that replaced three of the sitting office-holders.

An allied group — endorsed by the Sequim Good Governance League — of Kathy Downer, Vicki Lowe, Rachel Anderson, Brandon Janisse and Lowell Rathbun, leads another group endorsed by the Independent Advisory Association of Sarah Kincaid, Mike Pence, Daryl Ness, Patrick Day and Keith Larkin.

Of those, Anderson and Janisse are now on the council, Anderson as an appointee and Janisse as an elected incumbent.

Kincaid, Pence and Larkin — all appointees who voted as a bloc with Mayor William Armacost, who was not up for election this year — will be replaced.

Initial tallies on Tuesday saw results come in with high margins. After Wednesday’s second count of ballots in the all-mail election, voter turnout countywide — not just in Sequim — was 46.5 percent, with 26,584 votes counted out of 57,166 provided to voters and an estimated 650 ballots left to count.

The next count will be today.

In the latest tallies, votes remained fairly consistent for all five races on the seven-member council.

Downer, a retired nurse, led Kincaid 70.4 percent to 29.5 percent (1,994 votes to 836). Rathbun, a retired engineer, led Larkin 66.3 percent to incumbent Larkin’s 33.6 percent (1,876 votes to 950).

Janisse led Day with 1,885 votes (67.4 percent) to Day’s 906 votes (32.4 percent). Anderson had 1,944 votes (68.6 percent) to Ness’ 889 votes (31.6 percent), and Lowe earned 1,966 votes (69.1 percent) to Pence’s 876 votes (30.8 percent).

Janisse, a control room technician at the Clallam County jail, said Wednesday that Sequim had an ideological choice in this election.

“Does Sequim want to continue down the same path we have been going, or do we want to reverse course and get back to basic government and civility?” Janisse said. “The voters obviously chose that.”

Downer said she, fellow candidates and volunteers worked hard door-belling and reaching out to help educate the public.

“It’s reassuring. I moved to a community where people care enough to change the City Council,” Downer said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

Larkin, a retired California fire service administrator, said Wednesday he was in shock about the disparity in the results.

“I can’t believe it’s so lopsided,” he said.

Larkin said he had thought results would have been different because of the ample number of signs he placed (75) and homes he visited with commitments for a vote.

Appointed in October 2020, Larkin said he’s proud of holding off on raising utility rates two years in a row, making headway on affordable housing and supporting small businesses, particularly with more than $500,000 in grants.

“It’s been rewarding in that respect, doing some good things for the community,” he said.

Day, a retired California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation administrator, said he felt the turnout was low but accepts the results. He plans to stay involved.

“Taking one loss and putting your tail between your legs isn’t a good thing,” he said. “If you’re truly for the people, then you need to do what’s in their best interest. We’ll see how the next two years go.”

Day said his fellow candidates being outspent may have attributed partly to the results.

The currently leading candidates out-raised their opponents by $10,000 ($25,000-$15,000).

Campaign trail

During the campaign season, COVID-19 restricted some events to virtual forums and/or delayed or cancelled others. Some candidates opted not to go to specific group’s events over perceived partisanship either.

Some key talking points for candidates had included increased transparency and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s application process for a controversial medication-assisted treatment center.

Lowe, executive director for the American Indian Health Commission for Washington, said people canvassed had wanted a change.

“Many said, what can you do about the mayor?” she said.

“They’re tired of the focus on nationalists’ ideas. They wanted to focus on Sequim and talked about sidewalks, streets and those kinds of things.

“It was about Sequim being Sequim again.”

She and others who swept the election said residents highlighted opposition to the call for former city manager Charlie Bush’s resignation and a resolution opposing a county health mandate requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to sit indoors in restaurants and bars.

A majority of council members — Armacost, Kincaid, Larkin and Pence — voted for Bush to resign in January and in favor of the resolution.

Anderson, a volunteer for multiple nonprofits who was appointed to the council in February, voted against the resolution. She said it created “a lot of confusion and chaos” and may have been a key reason for the votes to go the way they did.

She said she’s heard some people aren’t happy with the hiring of Matt Huish as the new city manager, on a 4-3 vote. Huish was given a contract that guarantees him a full year’s salary and benefits if he is terminated for any reason other than cause (i.e. convicted of a felony or misdemeanor).

“I have a lot of hope for the future, especially with a new council that can better work with a city manager and help create a more positive work environment,” Anderson said.

Rathbun said, while door-belling, he heard frustrations from residents about COVID-19 and Armacost’s alleged connection to QAnon.

Armacost received national media attention for speaking on KSQM radio in August 2020, telling people to look into a video about the conspiratorial belief linking public figures to child trafficking and civil unrest. He later apologized via a press release through the city, and he disavowed the theory on the radio, saying he never endorsed or called himself a supporter.

Both Armacost, Position 1, and deputy mayor Tom Ferrell, Position 7, hold terms through Dec. 31, 2023. Downer and Rathbun will serve through Dec. 31, 2023, on two-year terms, while Lowe, Anderson and Janisse will serve through the end of 2025 on four-year terms.

Kincaid, Pence and Ness could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

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