County Commission candidate Vickie Raines raised and spent more money combined than her three challengers in the primary election, helping her earn a clear first-place finish in last week’s primary election, reports with the Public Disclosure Commission show.
The only question now is, who will face Raines? And that answer may not come until after a potential recount happens.
As of Aug. 12, Republican Keith Olson was ahead of Democrat Al Smith — but just by seven votes. Five days earlier, Olson was ahead by just four votes — a reversal from when he was behind on Election Day. It’s possible the whole thing may end up in a recount and all eyes will be on the county’s canvassing board, which will look through a number of challenged ballots before the election is certified on Aug. 19. The updated ballot count was released Aug. 12 for the Grays Harbor County Commissioner District 3 race and other elections. Even in the unlikely scenario that all of the remaining ballots went for Olson or Smith, there’s a good chance a recount would still be needed.
Olson had trailed Smith by 58 votes after the initial count on Election Day, and now leads him by a razor-thin seven votes.
Raines, the mayor of Cosmopolis who is running with no party preference, still has a commanding lead and will head into the General Election in November with 33.2 percent. The top two vote earners move on.
The fourth commissioner candidate, Independent Jim Heikel, conceded last week.
The results now have Raines with 1,848 votes out of a total of 5,573 counted in the race. Olson leads for the remaining spot on the November ballot with 26.09 percent (1,454 votes) and Smith dropped to 25.96 percent.
“Every vote really does count,” said Elections Supervisor Katy Moore. The narrow margin may end up mandating a recount for the second-place candidates.
“For a machine recount the race must be less than 2,000 votes difference and be less than half of one percent. For a manual recount, the race must be less than 150 votes and less than a quarter of one percent,” she wrote in an email.
For example, the current difference between Smith and Olson would mandate a hand recount.
Auditor Vern Spatz says in this case the candidates need to be separated by about eight votes to trigger the hand recount. Four years ago, the county had to do a recount to figure out who won between commission incumbent Al Carter and then-challenger Herb Welch in this very commission district. Welch won the recount.
The county still has several dozen ballots with signature issues — either the signatures on file didn’t match, spouses accidentally signed each other’s ballots, that sort of thing. Voters have until Aug. 19 to get the signatures straightened out.
There will also be an assortment of issues that need to be worked out with the county’s canvassing board, in charge of ballot disputes. The board is made up of a member of the county commissioners, the Auditor’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Office. County Commission Chairman Frank Gordon said he has already recused himself from the board. Gordon was publicly backing Smith and was against Raines. Instead, County Commissioner Wes Cormier will be on the canvassing board.
“There’s an obvious bias here that I don’t want to cloud things so I’ve asked Wes to step in,” Gordon said.
Moore is working on some several hundred signature challenges countywide, including dozens within District 3.
On the financial side, Raines raised $19,440. That compares to $5,979 raised by Olson and $8,251 raised by Smith. Heikel filed to raise only a maximum of $5,000. That means if Heikel raised his maximum, combined with the funds raised by Olson and Smith, the three candidates combined raised $19,230 — compared to the $19,440 Raines, alone, was able to garner.
“I’ve seen those reports and I knew that I had to get through the primary,” Raines said. “My name recognition is better in the other commission districts so, for me, this was about, ‘Go big or go home.’ I had some mailers I did around the time ballots came out — two of them — that cost me $7,500 alone.”
Raines’ top backers include $950 from Cosmo Specialty Fibers in Cosmopolis and $950 from Harbor Chrysler Jeep Dodge, $500 each from the Chehalis tribe, Brown Lewis Janhunen & Spencer, Stormy Glick, Dr. John Henricksen and $1,000 from LaSandra and Thomas Kirby of Marysville. Other big donors include $358.41 from Aberdeen City Councilwoman Kathi Hoder, and $300 each from Republican Lewis County Commissioner Edna Fund, Republican Lewis County Commissioner Bill Schulte, Montesano businessman Paul Willis, $300 from Nancy and Bob Betcher, developers on Pacific Beach; and an assortment of individual donations.
Olson’s top donors are from a number of “low cost” fundraisers as well as $640 from his dad John Olson and $500 from Darrell Bell. Smith’s top donor is himself with $1,129 and a personal loan of $1,477. Smith also had a low cost fundraiser that garnered $836, received $300 from the Grays Harbor Democrats and received financial support from many opponents of the crude oil terminals proposed for the Port of Grays Harbor.
In the Assessor’s race, incumbent Assessor Rick Hole increased his lead over Pacific County Chief Appraiser Loni Hooper for the second spot on the November ballot, now leading her by 382 votes. Hole, who prefers Neither Party, registered 30.4 percent (4,113 votes) after the latest count. Hooper, an Independent, tallied 27.58 percent.
Democrat Dan Lindgren, an appraiser in the Assessor’s Office and Hole’s opponent in the last election, still holds the top spot with 42.01 percent (5,682 votes) of a total of 13,526 ballots counted.
Lindgren raised $4,864, but only spent $1,698, PDC filings show. Hole raised $4,053 and spent $910. Hooper raised $6,727 and spent $5,882.
For Prosecutor, Katie Svoboda still leads with 54.34 percent of the countywide vote over challenger, Mike Spencer.
John Straka increased his slim lead over former PUD commissioner Frank Moses in the race to determine who will run against incumbent PUD Commissioner Russ Skolrood in November.
Straka held a 75-vote lead over Moses on election night. He now leads Moses by 109 votes with 26.9 percent (1,272 votes) to Moses’ 24.6 percent. Skolrood leads the three-way primary with 48.5 percent of the vote. Specific PDC reports were not on file for any of the candidates.
Countywide turnout now stands at 38.65 percent. Out of 38,321 ballots sent, 14,810 ballots have been counted.
Daily World Reporter Erin Hart contributed to this story.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story referred to donors being from Thurston County, when then were from Lewis County. We regret the error.