Voters have turned the 24th Legislative District into an all-Clallam County team of three Democrats who said Wednesday that education funding must be a top priority when they head to Olympia for the legislative session in January.
In the tally to date of Tuesday’s general election ballots, voters gave heavy leads to Clallam County Commissioner Mike Chapman of Port Angeles for the district’s two-year Position 1 state representative position.
They also re-elected Steve Tharinger to his two-year Position 2 state representative seat and will send the incumbent Position 1 state Rep. Keven Van De Wege of Sequim to the 24th District’s lone four-year state Senate seat.
The district includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County.
It holds more than 95,100 voters, two-thirds of whom are in Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Districtwide, 52,463 votes had been counted as of Wednesday, according to the Washington secretary of state website at www.sos.wa.gov.
Van De Wege, a Sequim firefighter who will succeed longtime state Sen. Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam, was leading districtwide 31,029 votes, or 59 percent, over Danille Turissini of Port Ludlow, who had 21,833 votes, or 41 percent.
Van De Wege captured 55 percent of votes counted in Clallam County and 67 percent of Jefferson County votes.
“It will be exciting to represent the district in the Senate,” said Van De Wege, majority whip of the House Democratic Caucus.
“The work I’ve done in the House will serve me well now.”
Van De Wege said he hopes to continue his House legislative emphasis by being named to the Senate’s natural resources and transportation committees.
He said passing legislation will prove a challenge, with the Senate remaining in Republican hands and the House majority with the Democratic Party.
Turissini, a political newcomer who had filed under an “Independent GOP Party” preference, acknowledged Wednesday that Van De Wege had won.
She was gathering campaign signs Wednesday close to home, in Port Ludlow.
“I got into the race to give the district a choice, and I did that,” Turissini said.
Van De Wege said Turissini injected “untruths” into the campaign on his voting record.
“I was a bit taken aback by that,” he said.
But Turissini said she kept the campaign “pretty positive,” focusing on Van De Wege’s record and, she insisted, documenting her assertions while not making the campaign personal.
Tharinger, who won his fourth term after three terms as a Clallam County commissioner, had districtwide totals almost identical to Van De Wege’s in overwhelming John Alger of Sequim, another political newcomer.
As of Wednesday, Tharinger had 30,847 votes districtwide, or 59 percent, to Alger’s 21,616 votes, or 41 percent.
Tharinger had cornered 55 percent of the vote in Clallam County and 69 percent of the vote in Jefferson County.
Alger, a retired Air Force officer, called Tharinger by midday Wednesday to offer his congratulations and cap what Alger termed a “civil” race between the two.
“It’s true that I lost the election, and Steve’s the winner, but when we talked, I offered to assist him, and he said that’s great,” Alger said.
Given Alger’s lack of name recognition, “I’m not displeased with the result,” Alger said.
Tharinger said he expects to continue as chair of the Capital Budget Committee but was worried about the national general election results for president that resulted in an overwhelming victory by Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“I’m a little concerned about living in Trump’s America,” Tharinger said.
If Trump is successful in repealing Obamacare, “it will upend what we’ve established in Washington [state],” Tharinger said.
When the 2017 legislative session begins Jan. 10, “we’ll have to do the final piece of the McCleary K-12 puzzle,” he added, referring to the state Supreme Court’s edict that the Legislature fund basic education.
Chapman’s vote totals as of Tuesday over Republican George Vrable in Chapman’s first try in the state legislative arena exceeded those of his more seasoned 24th District colleagues.
“It’s a little embarrassing,” the four-term county commissioner said Wednesday of his overwhelming lead over Vrable, another political newcomer.
Chapman had 32,688 votes districtwide, or 62 percent, to Vrable’s 20,087 votes, or 38 percent.
Chapman also captured 60 percent of the vote in Clallam County and 70 percent in Jefferson County.
He, too, saw finding $3 billion to fund McCleary a top priority.
“It will have to be a bipartisan solution,” Chapman said.
“That’s what the public now wants.”
Chapman said he’s hoping to be on the House natural resources and transportation committees.
The Legislature meets for 105 days in odd-numbered years and 60 days in even-numbered years, but Chapman said he won’t be getting another job during the rest of the year.
“I plan to devote full time to being the best state representative I can be,” Chapman said.
Vrable, a retired Navy Region Northwest Fire Department battalion chief, did not return calls for comment Wednesday.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at email@example.com.