Three familiar political faces and one new one emerged as leaders in Tuesday’s primary election voting for two 24th Legislative District seats. The district covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County.
Incumbent Democratic state Reps. Steve Tharinger of Port Townsend and Mike Chapman of Port Angeles received the bulk of votes in top-two balloting for the House seats, according to the state Secretary of State website at sos.wa.gov, which was updated Wednesday with Chapman receiving 26,119 votes or 57.49 percent in the three counties and Tharinger getting 21,740 votes or 48.58 percent.
Political newcomer and Republican Brian Pruiett of Carlsborg, a real estate investor and retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, was headed for a Nov. 3 Election Day showdown for the Position 2 slot.
Tharinger has occupied the position for five terms.
Pruiett had received 11,879 votes, or 26.54 percent as of Wednesday evening.
The four-person field for Tharinger’s seat included Democrat Darren Corcoran of Elma — who received 3,578 votes, or 7.99 percent — and Jodi Wilke, a North Olympic Peninsula Republican who dropped out of the race for personal reasons July 18, three days after ballots were mailed to voters.
Wilke still garnered 17 percent of the vote districtwide.
Republican Sue Forde of Sequim, the Clallam County Republican Party chair who unsuccessfully ran against then-Clallam County Commissioner Tharinger in 2003, was on her way to earning the right to challenge Chapman for the Position 1 seat he’s held for two two-year terms. She had 12,555 votes, or 27.63 percent in the reigonal elecitn.
Truck driver Daniel Charles Svoboda of Port Hadlock, who listed his party as “Prefers Trump Republican Party,” conceded Wednesday morning to Chapman and Forde, saying he had not campaigned for the position.
Svoboda still bested Forde in Grays Harbor County, coming in second to Chapman.
More than three-quarters of the district’s 106,000 voters live in Clallam and Jefferson counties.
In Clallam County, Tharinger had 46 percent, or 11,723 votes to Pruiett’s 32.26 percent, or 8,222 votes; Wilke’s 15.53 percent, or 3,957 votes; and Corcoran’s 6.16 percent, or 1,570 votes.
In Clallam County, Chapman had 53.13 percent, or 13,7339 votes, to Forde’s 34.65 percent or 8,957 votes and Svoboda’s 12.15 percent, or 3,733 votes.
In Jefferson County, Chapman had 71.21 percent or 8,985 votes, to Forde’s 17.36 percent or 2,190 votes and Svoboda’s 11.26 percent, or 1,421 votes.
In Jefferson County, Tharinger had 61.5 percent, or 7,594 votes to Pruiett’s 15.55 percent, or 1,920 votes; Wilke’s 13.77 percent, or 1,700 votes and Corcoran’s 9.07 percent, or 1,120 votes.
For Grays Harbor results, go to tinyurl.com/PDN-GraysHarbor.
Chapman said the distribution of votes in his favor was “virtually the same” as the election in 2018.
“It makes me feel like I’m doing a good job, that people like the job I’m doing,” he said Wednesday.
“I’m not perfect, as I’m sure that my opponent will point out. We have areas of disagreement, but this is an area where we need to have a working representative, that thinks we need to have good public infrastructure.”
Chapman did one mailer to voters during the primary, but the forums and community events that normally fill up an election-season calendar have been mostly absent under non-COVID-19 conditions restrictions.
The only forum he attended was a Clallam County League of Women Voters event that was held after Forde cancelled her appearance the day before the forum, Chapman said.
Forde did not return calls for comment Wednesday about the election results.
Tharinger said he was satisfied with the results and the “considerable margin” that he achieved as one of four candidates.
“I would have liked to have had more than 50 percent, obviously, but the difference in my vote count and the other individuals is a pretty strong lead,” he said.
“The primary is a really good poll that generally chooses the winner.”
Tharinger said the increase in taxes that he has been criticized for mostly went to K-12 and higher education, including making college free for students with household incomes of $50,000 or less, a program funded through a tax on internet services such as Amazon.
He said a payroll tax increase benefits people in need of long-term care that will save the state about $450 million in Medicare costs in 10 to 15 years, Tharinger said.
“We need to get into the reasons for some of these numbers,” he said of the critics.
Tharinger, who has not met Pruiett, said a League of Women Voters forum featuring the Position 2 race was cancelled after Pruiett “chose not to participate.”
Pruiett said he already had a prior campaign commitment in Grays Harbor County when asked to take part in the event but did not know if he would attend a League-sponsored general election forum if it’s scheduled.
Pruiett said the rules are too restrictive.
“I did not see much utility to it,” he said.
Pruiett said he has blocked out October for debates and forums but is otherwise concentrating his time on one-to-one contact with voters and campaign and party events.
Forums, he said, “are not as important as allowing people to ask their own questions.”
Pruiett said he will champion small businesses and criticized Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s measures that limited small business activities to stop the spread of COVID-19 while allowing big-box stores freer reign.
“Too many people have been harmed by the governor’s decrees,” he said, calling for a business and occupation “tax holiday” for every day small businesses were forced to stay closed because of those edicts.
Pruiett would not address how he would roll back recent tax increases, a main focus of his criticism of Tharinger.
“That’s got to be a negotiated agreement,” he said.
Pruiett’s campaign has been doorbelling for votes at a time that health officials are urging people to limit their social interactions. He’s being careful, Pruiett said.
“We’re very aware that a lot of people are conscious of the governor’s directives that we wear masks,” he said.
“When, we doorbell, we stand back 8 to 10 feet from the door, with a mask on, of course.”
The incumbent and the challenger differ on doorbelling, too.
“I don’t think it’s an appropriate activity during the virus,” Tharinger said.
“I think it’s an intrusion that people don’t want in their home at this point.
“It doesn’t meet the guidelines, it seems to me, of public health protocol for controlling the virus.”
Corcoran did not return calls for comment about the election results.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].