QUILCENE — A third candidate has announced interest in running for the District 3 seat on the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, creating a primary election contest.
Jon Cooke, a state committeeman with the Jefferson County Republican Party, registered with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) on Friday for the position held by Democrat Greg Brotherton.
Republican Marcia Kelbon, a chemical engineer and lawyer who retired from the biopharmaceutical company Omeros Medical Systems 2½ years ago, announced earlier that she is in the race as well.
Filing week for this year’s election is May 16-20.
If more than two candidates run for an office, the primary election will be on Aug. 2. The top-two primary will narrow the race to the two candidates who received the most votes regardless of party affiliation and those will oppose each other in the general election on Nov. 8. The last day for candidates to withdraw their names from the ballot is May 23.
This is the second time Cooke, 63, has run against Brotherton. The two faced off in November 2018 after surviving a primary race with four contenders. In the final count, Brotherton won 68.1 percent of the vote to Cooke’s 31.9 percent.
Cooke, who has lived just outside Quilcene for 13 years, said that, as commissioner, he would focus on the needs of the South County.
“I feel I can represent South County well,” he said Monday. “I would look after the needs of hard-working residents of South County residents” who need jobs, while the retired residents need to be able to live on fixed incomes.
“I would control county government growth,” Cooke said.
“We need to be wise … so that we’re not raising people’s taxes to give money away to projects that aren’t helping South County.”
He feels Port Townsend has been over-represented on the county commission.
“Port Townsend needs to stay Port Townsend, but South County is different.”
Cooke, a former county GOP chairman, also wants to offer a different viewpoint than he feels the all-Democratic county commission now provides.
“I think having a different perspective increases the amount of perspective on an issue,” he said. “Right now, we have three with the same sort of focus. I will have a different focus and bring more ideas.”
A custodian with Jefferson County, Cooke said he would quit his job if elected to the county commission.
Of his fellow Republican, Kelbon, who also has put her hat into the ring for the post, “she’s running her campaign and I’ll run mine.”
Cooke blames the dearth of housing on government regulation, which has “hampered basic building projects,” he said.
“It’s just a matter of supply and demand,” he said. “Supply is down. Demand is up. We need housing built so that supply is leveled out.”
Cooke advocates streamlining permitting.
“My proposal would be to take a project once a month and see what the snags are,” he said, urging a watchful eye while respecting the knowledge of professionals to check to see “if all requirements are really necessary.”
Cooke said he wants to provide those who are homeless with a way out of their difficulties, whether that means help for drug addiction, care for mental health issues or jobs.
“Just providing for them isn’t giving them a way out,” Cooke said. “People need a way out.”
That would vary from person to person, he said, and could include “offering them ways to get back on their feet, in help getting jobs or living in a safe environment.
One of Cooke’s prime issues is “keeping our community safe,” he said.
State laws “have hampered our sheriff’s office, but we still need to support our law enforcement,” he added.
Cooke said he feels he can “do a great job balancing the fiscal responsibility and needs of our businesses.
“Our businesses took a hit lately and we need to get them back functioning again without mandates so they don’t have to turn customers away.”
Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties, had mandated in September when COVID-19 case loads were high that bars and restaurants must require proof of vaccination against the virus from those who wanted to eat and drink indoors.
She agreed in a settlement with six eateries that if case loads decreased enough, the mandate would be lifted by March 11 — and has said since that both counties are on track to see that come into effect on Friday.
King County also had required proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, not only for bars and restaurants but also for indoor recreational events and establishments or outdoor events. That was lifted on March 1.
“It seemed really strange that three of the 39 counties (in the state) were the only ones that did it,” Cooke said.
“Why would it be that important if none of the other counties were doing it?”
Cooke said he opposed the proof-of-vaccination mandate because “it didn’t take into account natural immunity.”
His view is that “it got really political … that it was a power thing, that she wanted that control, it seemed to me.”
Cooke said that, as a custodian, he is a blue-collar worker. He worked as a teacher and served as a wrestling coach for more than 30 years in Kitsap County.
He was elected to the Quilcene School Board in November and has served for three months and has served on the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for four years.
In addition, he is involved in the Quilcene Lions Club and he and his wife, Sherry, are active in the Calvary Community Church.
“All these things connect me with the community,” Cooke said.
Kelbon, 62, a Quilcene resident, has said she wants to address the shortage of reasonably priced housing and the need for limited economic development and reduced taxes. She’s said also that she’s opposed to any advance of a “Seattle-style socialist agenda,” and if elected, would tackle the root causes of homelessness in Jefferson County.
Brotherton, 50, a Quilcene resident who filed with the PDC in December, has said he’s proud of his accomplishments since his election in 2018.
He and other county commissioners have worked to solve the problems stemming from the homeless encampment at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. Last year, the county commissioners established a new camp off Mill Road, spending some $600,000 to purchase the land.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.