PORT ANGELES — Patti Morris has earned a spot on the November ballot with Rick Paschall apparently also running in the general election race for Clallam County Public Utility District commissioner after a second count of primary election ballots on Wednesday.
Marty Michaelis was in third place and Neil Knutson was in fourth.
The Clallam County Auditor’s Office has counted a total of 26,498 ballots in the primary election, for a voter turnout of 48.4 percent. The next ballot count will be by 5 p.m. today.
The top-two finishers from the primary will advance to the Nov. 3 general election. The PUD general election will include all voters of Clallam County except in the city of Port Angeles, which has its own electric utility.
Morris, Paschall, Michaelis and Knutson are vying for the six-year seat being vacated by appointee Dave Anderson.
Anderson is filling the expiring term of the late Hugh Haffner, a longtime District 2 commissioner who had resigned in June 2018 and died of complications from a stroke in February.
Morris had 3,095 votes — or 49.3 percent — of the District 2 ballots that the Clallam County Auditor’s Office had counted as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“I’m cautiously optimistic, because you’re never the winner until it’s all done,” Morris said in a Wednesday interview before the second count of ballots.
“You never know what’s going to happen in these things, and we’re in unusual times right now,” Morris added, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s just really hard to tell because it’s not traditional-type campaigning that you would normally do. It makes it much more interesting, I’ll say that, but I was very pleased with the outcome.”
Paschall was in second place with 1,372 votes, or 21.8 percent.
Michaelis was in third place with 1,050 votes, or 16.7 percent.
“I feel pretty confident that my lead is going to hold,” Paschall said Wednesday before the second count of ballots of the race for entry into the general election.
“My two goals are to keep Clallam County PUD’s rates as low as possible and to ensure BPA (Bonneville Power Administration) has enough resources to meet demand.”
Michaelis was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
Knutson was in fourth place Wednesday with 736 votes, or 11.7 percent.
“If I’m in fourth, I won’t be in the general, that’s for sure,” Knutson said when reached by cell phone Wednesday.
Knutson said he had planned to focus on maintenance and “getting the best bang for the buck for the voters around here.”
“Of course, I’m not against renewable, but right now they’re not cost effective,” Knutson said.
“But they will be. That’s how I feel about it, but I didn’t get to tell them.”
Morris said she would focus on keeping PUD rates low while maintaining or increasing the district’s reliability of service. She also would urge greater transparency for PUD commission meetings, she said.
“I know that they’re more than willing to allow open access for citizens, but I think we need to work a little harder on that where meetings are recorded and people can go back and listen, ask questions, that kind of thing,” Morris said.
“We have so many customers that are on fixed incomes that we can’t really take on a lot of projects or things that would impact our rates,” Morris added.
“I do want to take a look at renewable resources and see if there’s a way that we can integrate them, such as community solar projects where they’re funded by a community type-program and don’t impact rates. I think those are worthwhile, so that’s something else I want to look at as well.”
Morris, who will be 66 as of the Nov. 3 general election, is a Port Angeles consultant who worked for 27 years for the Tucson Electric Power Company in Arizona.
Paschall, 62, is a retired operations manager of Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative, in Portland.
“Experience is important,” Paschall said. “I have over 30 years of experience working with BPA on behalf of rural electric utilities, and there will not be a learning curve.
“I know the people, I know the issues and I will be able to hit the ground running,” Paschall added.
Michaelis, 56, is a front-end manager at Safeway.
Knutson, 64, is a Sequim retiree.
Michaelis and Paschall each listed Sequim addresses on their candidate registration forms. Morris resides in the Port Angeles area.
PUD commissioners earn up to $48,724 a year, comprised of a $30,804 salary and up to $17,920 a year in a per diem allotments for meetings and PUD-related business.
Commissioners approve an annual budget that in 2020 is $82 million, including $75 million for electric services and $6.7 million for water services. The budget funds 145 employees.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].