LONG BEACH — The addition of 2,534 late-arriving ballots to Pacific County’s primary election vote tally Monday evening didn’t shift which county, state and federal candidates advance to the Nov. 6 general election.
County voters endorsed incumbents Sheriff Scott Johnson and Prosecutor Mark McClain to face Shoalwater Bay Police Chief Robin Souvenir and private attorney Pamela Nogueira Maneman, respectively.
In Washington’s top-two primary system, the two highest-finishing candidates in August advance to the November election, no matter what party they belong to.
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, in a seven-way race, failed to obtain a majority of votes in the county and the Third Congressional District as a whole. She thus unexpectedly faces a tough re-election contest with Democratic nominee Carolyn Long.
Ballots placed in the mail or drop boxes on primary election day would ordinarily have been added to the count last Friday. Only one elections official was present, whereas state requires at least two. Because of this, the count wasn’t finally concluded until 5:34 p.m. Monday.
Late ballots brought the county’s turnout to 55.72 percent. This substantially bested participation in other recent primaries, for example 43.77 percent in August 2016 and 43.25 percent in August 2014. Of the county’s 14,504 registered voters, 8,082 cast ballots in this election.
Hot local races
Voter interest was heightened by four three-way races for county offices.
Sheriff Johnson, a Democrat, received 47.16 percent of votes, compared to 29.25 percent for Souvenir, a declared independent, and 23.59 percent for former Sheriff’s Deputy Sean Eastham, a Republican.
Johnson ran unopposed in the 2014 primary. In his 2010 challenge of then-incumbent Sheriff John Didion, Johnson received 52.29 percent in the primary and 55.53 percent in the general election. His opponents’ combined 52.84 percent of this year’s primary ballots could spell trouble for the two-term sheriff, a former Washington state patrolman.
McClain, an independent nearing the end of his first term as prosecutor, won an outright majority of 51.33 percent of primary votes, compared to 31.11 percent for Nogueira Maneman. Former Assistant Prosecutor Eric Weston trailed with 17.56 percent. In 2014, taking on then-Prosecutor David Burke, McClain took a nearly identical 51.21 percent of primary votes, before winning with 59.06 percent in November.
In the Board of County Commissioners race, only north county district 3 voters cast ballots in the primary election, while voters county-wide will make the decision in November. Michael “Hawk” Runyon, an independent, received 40.79 percent, with Todd P. Stephens (no party affiliation stated) getting 30.44 percent and Pebbles Keller Williams, a Democrat, garnering 28.77 percent. The race is to fill the seat to be left vacant by retirement of incumbent Lisa Ayers.
Former Ocean Beach School Board member Debbie Oakes is likely to face Don Pape in the general election for a seat on the Pacific County Public Utility District commission created by the pending retirement of Diana Thompson. Oakes came just a shade away from a majority of primary votes — 49.93 percent to 29.87 percent for retired electric-utility employee Don Pape. Dan Whealdon finished third, with 20.2 percent.
All Pacific County voters will participate in the general election for the new PUD commissioners.
Congress and legislature
In the Third Congressional District race, incumbent Herrera Beutler, whose seat had previously been considered a safe bet for Republicans, is now thought by political analysts to face a scramble for re-election.
Herrera received 42.86 percent of votes in Pacific County and 42.09 percent in the district as a whole, compared to 30.63 percent for Long. The district’s population is heavily weighted to Vancouver. Formerly conservative leaning, Clark County, where Vancouver is located, favored Long 39.55 percent to 38.94 percent.
Herrera won the other six counties of the third district. District-wide, Herrera got 42.09 percent to Long’s 35.29 percent. However, Herrera’s margin of victory was substantially shaved in some cases from what it had been in previous primaries. In Pacific County, for example, Herrera’s share of the vote dropped nearly 12 percent from the August 2016 result.
Overall, the three Republicans running for Congress last week received 51 percent to 49 percent split between the four competing Democrats.
In the race for Legislative District 19 seats, first-term incumbent Republican Rep. Jim Walsh faces a strong challenge from Democrat Erin Frasier. Though both were guaranteed to advance to the general election since there were just two candidates in the primary, Walsh’s district-wide tally was 50.19 percent to Frasier’s 49.81 percent. Frasier won Pacific County, with nearly 53 percent. Frasier also won the 19th Legislative District’s most populous Cowlitz County with 51 percent. Walsh won Wahkiakum County with 57 percent. He narrowly won in the portion of Grays Harbor County that’s in the 19th district, with 50.1 percent. His best result was in highly conservative western Lewis County, with about 66.27 percent.
Incumbent Democratic Rep. Brian Blake, in a three-way race with two Republicans, handily topped his portion of the ballot with 58.29 percent district-wide and 62.61 percent in Pacific County. Joel McEntire with 21.82 percent in the district vote will advance to the general election. David Parsons ran third with 19.89 percent and was eliminated from contention.
In a 29-way race, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, took 54.82 percent of votes statewide and in Pacific County and 55.45 percent statewide and 51.48 percent in Pacific County to advance to the general election versus Republican Susan Hutchison, who got 24.32 percent statewide and 24.02 percent in Pacific County.
When she last ran in a primary election, in August 2012, Cantwell got 55.66 percent statewide and 56.3 percent in Pacific County. She went on to receive 60.45 percent of votes in November 2012 versus state Sen. Michael Baumgartner.