PORT TOWNSEND — Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders was leading former Vice President Joe Biden among Jefferson County voters in initial returns in the statewide presidential primary.
President Donald Trump, the lone candidate on the Republican side of the ballot, received all 2,786 county votes, according to the auditor’s office, and he had more than 98 percent of the statewide selection.
“There’s still a lot of excitement for President Trump and what he’s done,” said Jon Cooke, the chairman of the Jefferson County Republicans.
About 1,500 ballots remained to be counted and 601 will be challenged due to a lack of a signature or one that is questionable, county Election Coordinator Quinn Grewell said.
The voter turnout was 55 percent of 26,289 active voters, she said.
In a tight race Tuesday, Sanders, a U.S. Senator from Vermont, was edging Biden by 149 votes at the county level.
Statewide, Biden took the lead over Sanders after additional results were posted Wednesday afternoon. Biden led by about 16,000 votes, 35.01 percent-33.62 percent (408,083 votes-391,880 votes).
Biden in Clallam County
Joe Biden won Clallam County over Bernie Sanders in the Washington Democratic presidential primary election, according to initial counts.
Marty Gilmore, the chair of the Jefferson County Democrats, pointed to Biden’s national success and said he has a clear path to securing the nomination.
Linda Sutton, a Sanders supporter with the Jefferson County Progressives group, said issues such as a single-payer health care system have become predominant because of his candidacy.
“Bernie owns the future,” she said. “The generations coming up, the under-30s, 70 percent of them are on board with what Bernie wants to do.”
Gilmore said he wasn’t surprised Sanders was leading in Jefferson County because many people are seeing local impacts with some of Sanders’ national policies when it comes to a lack of housing and living-wage jobs.
“In Jefferson County, we’ve got rising house prices and rising rents, but we don’t have rising wages,” he said. “The local issue of housing and a living wage, it’s not only here, it’s in all spots all around the country. That has to be addressed, and health care has to be addressed.”
Sutton was pleased with Sanders’ growth since his campaign in 2016, when she said many thought his policies were “radical.”
“Medicare for all is now incredibly popular,” she said. “In spite of people being very behind the issues [Sanders] has stood for, it’s been going for Biden.”
She pointed to Eastern Washington — “supposedly conservative districts” — where Sanders won in 11 counties.
Cooke pointed to the state of Texas, where he said Trump received more votes than the top three Democrats combined.
The Republicans will have a county convention Saturday at the Tri-Area Community Center to vote on delegates to represent them at the state level, he said.
“It looks like Joe Biden will be our opponent, so we will be waiting to start that whole thing off,” Cooke said.
Sutton said if Biden wins the nomination, she hopes Democrats “have the wherewithal to have him make it through the general [election] and win.”
“He has a lot of baggage and there are a lot of things that speak against him being able to carry on a very effective campaign against Trump,” she said. “But I think there’s nobody in the Democratic direction who would wish him ill.
“If Biden were to get Bernie’s people behind him, I think that is the way.”
Gilmore suggested Sanders should consider dropping out of the race and supporting Biden if results next week from other states’ primaries continue their trend toward Biden.
Otherwise, it could become damaging to both the issues and the party, he said.
“[Sanders’] issues are still valid issues even if he’s not the nominee,” Gilmore said.
“We as Democrats need to come together, consolidate these plans and move it through Congress so we can protect ourselves, our neighbors and our families.”
Gilmore said the party wants to unify its efforts for a run at the White House.
“The Democrats are united and compassionate about defeating Trump,” he said. “That’s the least controversial position for us.”
Sanders had 3,283 votes in Jefferson County (34.03 percent) to Biden’s 3,134 (32.48 percent).
Other candidates included Elizabeth Warren (1,323 votes), Michael Bloomberg (881), Pete Buttigieg (448) and Amy Klobuchar (365).
Additional candidates who received votes were Tulsi Gabbard (79), Andrew Yang (23), Tom Steyer (21), Cory Booker (11), John Delaney (4) and Deval Patrick (3).
There were 62 uncommitted delegates, according to the county auditor’s office.
Ballots returned by 8 p.m. Tuesday and those with a valid postmark will be counted by 4 p.m. Friday.
Those who have a challenged ballot have until 4:30 p.m. March 19 to resolve it, Grewell said.
The results are expected to be certified March 20.
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].