PORT ANGELES — Voters favoring all four Port Angeles City Council incumbents for re-election in Tuesday’s general election were rejecting candidates who challenged the first-termers over their handling of the city’s homeless population and other social issues.
After ballots were counted Tuesday and Wednesday, council-appointed Mayor Kate Dexter was defeating John Procter, Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin was out-polling Jena Stamper, Mike French was overcoming John Madden and LaTrisha Suggs was beating Adam Garcia.
Voter turnout Clallam County-wide was 46.5 percent as of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, with 26,584 votes counted from among 57,166 registered voters.
There are more than 13,000 registered voters in Port Angeles eligible to vote in the city council race, with between 6,156 and 6,198 ballots counted in the four races as of late Wednesday afternoon.
Estimated votes left to count countywide in all the races as of Wednesday afternoon were 650.
The next count will be today.
Suggs was out-polling Garcia, 51.1 percent to 48.6 percent (3,160 to 3,005 votes) as of the second count at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Suggs, whose lead grew by 15 votes compared with Tuesday night, was feeling confident earlier Wednesday that her lead would last.
A natural resources restoration planner with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and the first Native American on the city council, she said she was relieved to get the initial results.
“It’s kind of hard to keep your head in your work yesterday where that’s kind of all you’re thinking about, wondering about,” she said.
“I’m not going to concede,” Garcia said late Wednesday afternoon after the second tally.
“I’m not challenging anything, and I understand how statistics works,” he said.
“I’m going to let it play out, and what the votes are, the votes are.”
Garcia said Suggs made the race partisan by accepting a $200 contribution from the Clallam County Democratic Central Committee.
Garcia said he stayed nonpartisan by rejecting help from the Independent Advisory Association, a self-described populist Sequim group that backed Madden and Stamper.
Suggs said Tuesday she did not ask for the party donation and said she needed the funding to pay for her campaign expenses, including a joint mailer with Position 3 incumbent Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin.
“When I’m on the city council, it’s about what is best for our community,” she said.
Garcia said he distanced himself from the other challengers from the beginning by emphasizing the need for social services as a weapon against homelessness.
French appeared to have an insurmountable lead with 58.8 percent to Madden’s 40.1 percent (3,622 to 2,519 votes), a lead that reflected a similar margin earlier Wednesday.
“I think the margin is probably pretty safe at this point,” French said Wednesday morning.
“I’ve just been trying to focus on relevant issues to people for four years and focusing on, like, the planning effort downtown going on right now,” said French, owner of First Street Haven restaurant in Port Angeles.
“Hopefully that got through to voters, because I didn’t really do a lot of campaign spending.”
French said he did not spend anything on his campaign, while Madden filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission to spend under $5,000.
In a text message Wednesday, Madden thanked his supporters.
“I hope the community will stay engaged and work together on our challenges,” Madden said. “Best wishes to Mr. French.”
French faulted the city for not mounting a public relations effort to publicize the city’s efforts and solutions for homelessness and drug abuse, issues that council challengers focused on.
“Those issues were huge issues four years ago,” French recalled. “We haven’t done a good job of explaining what the solutions are and how it’s going to work.”
Schromen-Wawrin’s vote total was 16 less than Suggs’, with whom he shared campaign expenses for a flier.
As of late Wednesday, the Port Angeles lawyer had 50.7 percent to Stamper’s 49 percent (3,144 to 3,031 votes).
“I’m assuming I won the election,” Schromen-Wawrin said Wednesday morning.
“I’d be very surprised if the results tallied up [Wednesday] change that I’m ahead.”
Stamper, co-owner of Boulevard Natural Wellness Center, could not be reached for comment Monday or Wednesday to discuss the election.
Schromen-Wawrin said Stamper’s voice would be valuable on the parks and recreation commission as someone who, during the campaign, was concerned about the physical condition and safety of city parks.
It is important for residents to consider “how we come together as a community,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
“I saw a dynamic on the national level that was starting to manifest itself at the local level, where we are becoming more and more polarized,” he said.
The housing issue “is more complex than the other side made it sound,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
“They made it sound like the choice is getting people off the street and leaving people on the street. They made it sound like the current city council did not want to solve the problem.”
He decried the level of discourse he saw on Facebook during the campaign, which he referred to as “Hatebook.”
“People were making stuff up on what the city council has done or spends time doing and [spreading] baseless information,” he said. “We need to figure out how to effectively counter that and have conversations about the facts.”
Dexter, a Peninsula College nursing program specialist, gained almost the same percent of the vote in the general election as of the second count Wednesday as she did in the Aug. 3 primary election, when she had 53.3 percent in a three-person race.
She had 53.4 percent Wednesday to Procter’s 46 percent (3,291 to 2,860 votes).
“I did what I set out to do to make my points and talk to quite a few people and felt good about that part. I don’t feel like I left anything on the table, so to speak,” she said earlier Wednesday.
Procter, a retired veterinarian, thanked his supporters Wednesday morning and said it appeared Dexter had won.
“I’ll say that I wish her well and I congratulate her,” Procter said.
He said he may have relied too much on social media, especially Facebook, to get the word out about his campaign.
Procter said he hurt his campaign by coming out late with a plan, employed in Auburn, for a proposed homeless shelter with wraparound services combined with a no-camping-on-public-property ordinance.
“I may have lost the election, but in reality, I won because of the amazing amount of people I met along the way,” Procter said. “I don’t consider myself a loser. I consider myself a winner.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at email@example.com.