PRIMARY ELECTION: Nicholas tops in Fire 3 race

Opponent may withdraw

SEQUIM — Jeff Nicholas and Duane Chamlee topped the vote counts in the primary election for Sequim-area Clallam County Fire District 3 Position 1 commissioner, but only one person might be proceeding to the general election as a viable candidate.

Chamlee, who came in a distant second to Nicholas but beat out Sean Ryan to advance to the Nov. 2 contest, said Wednesday he will wait until he sees the final tally for the six-year seat before deciding whether the gap between him and Nicholas is too great to overcome by Nov. 2.

As of Wednesday’s second count of ballots, Nicholas had 56.4 percent, or 5,247 votes, to Chamlee’s 35.4 percent, 3,289 votes, and Ryan’s 7.9 percent, or 739 votes.

The total includes 119 Jefferson County voters who cast ballots totalling 59.7 percent for Nicholas, 32.8 percent for Chamlee and 7.6 percent for Ryan.

The Clallam County elections office counted 240 votes left over from Tuesday, the final day that ballots could be submitted or postmarked to be valid, and expects to count more than 3,500 today, Auditor Shoona Riggs said Wednesday. The bulk of ballots will be counted by Friday.

Jefferson County plans to count votes again by 4 p.m. today.

Nicholas, a District 3 volunteer firefighter-emergency medical technician; Chamlee, a retired Riverside County, Calif., deputy fire chief, and Ryan filed as candidates to fill the position being vacated by Michael Gawley, who is not seeking re-election.

“I’m going to wait until we get pretty close to the final count and then make a decision about what to do from there, whether I continue to run or whether I just secede to Mr. Nicholas,,” said Chamlee, who will be 78 on General Election Day.

“At this point, I don’t know. I’m going to give that some thought and see where we are.”

Riggs said no matter what Chamlee decides, his name will remain on the general election ballot. Candidates who file for election must withdraw by the Monday after filing week for their names to not appear on the primary and general election ballots.

If Chamlee wins the election but doesn’t want to serve, he would have to resign and the fire district would appoint a replacement, Riggs said. The position would be up for election in 2023.

Nicholas said his vote total was encouraging as he heads into the general election.

“I think a lot of that has to do with my connection to the community,” he said, citing his work as a community outreach officer, work at a food drive and at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

“They know who I am, and having the union support doesn’t hurt at all,” he said of Sequim-area International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2933.

Ryan, who did not participate in a county League of Women Voters forum earlier this summer, was not upset about the loss.

“It’s no big deal,” he said.

“I wish all those guys the best. I just wish them the best and the best for Clallam County. That’s why it’s a democracy. You can try. Anyone can throw their hat in the ring.”

Ryan said Wednesday he will support Nicholas.

“I think he’s a good guy, and I think he’s qualified for the job,” he said.

Ryan ran unsuccessfully for District 3 fire commissioner in 2013, 2015 and 2017, for county director of community development in 2010 and for the county charter review commission 2014.

Ryan said he won’t be running again for fire commissioner.

“This is it,” he said.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.

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