PORT ANGELES — Ken Hays was cautiously optimistic in claiming victory over Clallam Public Utility District incumbent Will Purser on Wednesday afternoon before the second count of ballots in Tuesday’s general election.
In initial returns, Hays had a 3.6 percent lead over Purser, giving Hays 51.7 percent of the vote to Purser’s 48.1 percent.
But that could change, Hays pointed out.
“I haven’t declared victory, with a 3.6 percentage point advantage, which is measurable,” he said.
“But my understanding is there are another 12,000 ballots left to be counted. I don’t know how many of those will count towards this race, but who knows? I am cautiously optimistic at this time,” Hays said.
Purser said he would not comment given the closeness of the race after the initial count.
“It’s a little premature to talk about it with so many votes left out there,” Purser said.
In the second count of ballots in the all-mail election — the results of which were announced late in the day — Hays won 10,331 votes, or 51.05 percent, to Purser’s 9,850 votes, or 48.67 percent.
But comments from the candidates were made prior to those results.
“I have felt confident about our chances from the beginning of the race,” Hays said then. “I always thought this race would be close, and I think that is what we are seeing.”
Said Purser: “One of the amazing things about this campaign has been how little people know about what the PUD does, and I think Mr. Hays sort of played on that.
“He’s promised a lot of things that he cannot deliver on. But if people want to believe that, then so be it.”
Purser has been a commissioner for the Clallam County PUD since 2001. He noted the work that has been done in that time and the teamwork with the other PUD commissioners.
“If Mr. Hays is successful, he will be part of a three-man commission and will not be able to do things unilaterally,” Purser said.
“My point in mentioning that is that, over the last 21 years, we have had a good commission, good staff and management, and we have constantly improved the PUD to be a premiere and national award-winning utility,” Purser said.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at email@example.com.