COVID-19 changes ways candidates file for office

Online applications on county government websites encouraged

With the May 11-15 candidate filing period little more than three weeks away, officials in Clallam and Jefferson counties are getting ready for the Nov. 3 general election in the age of COVID-19.

Election coordinators are urging candidates to file online on county government websites as many county offices are closed or open only by appointment in order to maintain social distancing guidelines.

Offices up for election include public utility district and county commissioner positions in both counties and four Superior Court judgeships — three in Clallam County and one in Jefferson County.

Clallam County Auditor Shoona Riggs said 67 precinct committee offices also are open, each with positions for Republican and Democratic candidates, which, in a non-COVID-19 environment, could draw more than 100 people to the auditor’s office to file for the seats.

“If we have them do it online as much as possible, it would help things go so much smoother,” she said.

Riggs said the Clallam County Auditor’s Office is closed to the public.

She said she is seeking guidance from the Secretary of State’s Office and Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols on the degree to which the office must be open for candidates to file in person.

Jefferson County Elections Coordinator Quinn Grewell said candidates also can submit information for the voters’ pamphlet when they file online.

“It’s kind of a one-stop shop,” she said.

“It’s always been an option, but really, 2020 is here.”

“Filing online is super easy,” Grewell said. “You can do it from your house or anywhere.

“Definitely, the state is encouraging people, and Jefferson County is encouraging people to file online.”

Grewell said the Jefferson County Auditor’s Office is setting appointments every 30 minutes for individuals who say they need to come to the office in person, a regimen that will apply to candidates who want to file for office in person.

Once they leave, “we sanitize the whole area,” Grewell said.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order expires May 4, although health officials on the North Olympic Peninsula say there’s a chance he will extend the order, or parts of it, beyond that date.

“We’re kind of waiting a little bit to see what happens,” Grewell said.

“We have measures in place if it continues the way it’s been.”

Some familiar faces have already made their electoral intentions known.

Clallam County Commissioner Randy Johnson, who filed four years ago with no party preference, and Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean, a Democrat, said Wednesday they will run for re-election, as have all three Democratic 24th Legislative District lawmakers, who represent both counties and part of Grays Harbor County.

State Reps. Mike Chapman of Port Angeles and Steve Tharinger of Port Townsend, and state Sen. Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim have already filed for re-election, and Van De Wege has drawn a challenger, Republican Connie Beauvais of Joyce, a Port of Port Angeles commissioner.

Four-term Democratic Jefferson County Commissioner David Sullivan is not seeking re-election to his four-year seat.

“I anticipate more people filing for that than any other position, really,” Grewell said.

Clallam County Superior Court Judges Brent Basden, appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee in November 2018, and Lauren Erickson, appointed in January 2019, said Wednesday they will run for re-election.

Both were elected Nov. 5 to fill one-year unexpired terms. Erickson replaced Erik Rohrer, and Basden replaced Chris Melly.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge Brian Coughenour, who is resigning June 1 with his seat up for election in November, will be replaced by Inslee from among applicants Simon Barnhart, Lisa Dublin, Harry Gasnick, Curtis Johnson and Alexandrea Schodowski.

Coughenour’s replacement, who is expected to run for the position Nov. 3, will be selected by Inslee “maybe as soon as by the end of this month,” Inlsee’s deputy general counsel, Tip Wonhoff, said Wednesday in an email.

“Interviews will hopefully be complete this week,” Wonhoff said.

Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Keith Harper said via email Wednesday that he intends to run for re-election.

Dean said she has already filed for re-election, adding that a priority for the next four years is obtaining funding for the Port Hadlock sewer project.

The COVID-19 pandemic could spark a recession likely to last for a few years that will “absolutely affect the county budget,” she said.

“It’s going to be a rough next term if I get re-elected,” Dean said.

Johnson, 77, said if he’s re-elected he would not run for a third term.

He is anxious to get the county’s emergency operations center up and running at the port’s 1010 building, a facility he thought would first see major use during a Cascadia Subduction Zone tsunami.

“For COVID, we need to be located in one place, and 9-1-1 as well,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he works well with Democratic Commissioner Mark Ozias of Sequim and Republican Commissioner Bill Peach of Forks, and that it will be important for cities and counties to help businesses and nonprofits in the months to come.

Jefferson County Public Utility District Commissioner Ken Collins also has announced his intention to seek a second six-year term.

Clallam County PUD Commissioner David Anderson, appointed to the position in September 2018, also is up for election.

He did not return calls for comment Wednesday and Thursday on whether he intends to run for the office.

Jefferson County candidates can file at tinyurl.com/PDN-JeffersonFiling.

In Clallam County, the link for candidate filing will be placed on the website at tinyurl.com/PDN-ClallamFile at the beginning of filing week, according to the county auditor.

Grewell and Riggs said no ballot measures have been submitted for the Aug. 4 primary or Nov. 3 general election.

Other seats on the Nov. 3 ballot include positions held by 6th Congressional District Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, Democratic Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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