PORT ANGELES — Health care facility director Heather Jeffers said Wednesday she was not surprised she is the top vote-getter in the Olympic Medical Center commissioner primary election that concluded Tuesday.
Those results will send her and former Port Angeles City Council member Karen Rogers to the Nov. 2 general election.
But the Avamere Olympic Rehabilitation of Sequim administrator did not expect to gain 57 percent, or 8,937 votes, to Rogers’ 31.1 percent, or 4,876 votes, and retired OMC clinical laboratory director Steve Blackham’s 11.8 percent, or 1,846 votes, as of Wednesday.
The Clallam County elections office counted 240 ballots Wednesday that were not processed Tuesday night and expects to count the more than 3,500 ballots received from drop boxes and the mail today, Auditor Shoona Riggs said Wednesday afternoon in a text message.
“We’ve been sorting and getting the incoming ballots ready for signature checking today,” she said.Jeffers texted Monday she was worried she could not compete with Rogers’ advertising and campaigning efforts.
“I expected more of a tighter race,” Jeffers said Wednesday.
“I didn’t think the margin would be that great.
“That was a nice surprise.”
Jeffers and Rogers, a business consultant and former city council-appointed mayor, are vying for the six-year at-large seat being vacated by long-term Commissioner Jim Leskinovitch.
The election covers the largest geographic area — 52,000 voters from Blyn to Beaver — of any contested race on the Clallam County ballot for the primary and the general election.
“I was hoping it would be closer, absolutely,” Rogers said.
“It explains itself based on having two quality medical people running against you.
“With all due respect, it’s very common that someone votes for someone in the medical field because it’s about health care, and that directly correlates.
“I just have to do a better job of convincing [voters] why it’s important, why we have to have a robust, diverse board at the hospital, just like other governing agencies.”
Rogers, an OMC Foundation board member, said a majority of the board members are current or retired medical professionals or former OMC employees. She added she is a “community person” who would represent “that patient perspective.”
Blackham said Wednesday he was not surprised at the election result, as Rogers and Jeffers are known to voters.
Rogers was elected to the city council in 2001 and served through 2009, including two years as mayor.
Jeffers unsuccessfully ran for hospital commissioner in 2013 and was appointed to the Sequim School Board in 2015 before losing in the 2016 election.
“It was interesting to me that Heather got double the number of votes that Karen did,” Blackham said, adding he will support Jeffers for the position.
“Karen is a seasoned politician and brings that value to the board,” he said.
“Heather brings a long-term-care perspective that I think will be very valuable to the board,” Blackham said. “I could vote for either and be comfortable.”
Rogers, who has been endorsed by Leskinovitch, said she has not done a lot of campaigning and may ramp up her efforts as the general election draws closer.
Rogers said she will consider conducting doorbelling after doing a precinct analysis of the primary results.
“I know that I have to get out there and explain the benefits of me being on the board,” she said.
Jeffers said voters who contacted her were not interested that much in her medical-field experience.
“The feedback I’ve been receiving has been more on my positions on things, not about my job, more on my position on topics,” Jeffers said.
She pointed to numerous emails on questions ranging from COVID-19 vaccines, mental health services, fluoridation, Critical Race Theory and workforce housing.
“That tells me people are looking at more than just the job, they are looking at overall beliefs, is what it seems like.”
Jeffers did not know if she will conduct doorbelling.
“I haven’t given much thought yet to outreach efforts,” she said.
“I’m not a former politician, not experienced in campaigning, so it’s new territory for me, unlike my opponent.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].