MONTESANO — A vacancy in the Coroner’s Office and a contested race in the Prosecutor’s Office has taken shape as the week for filing for public office approaches.
Last week, Montesano attorney Mike Spencer ended the “would he, or wouldn’t he?” game by officially declaring his candidacy for prosecutor. Some had thought Spencer might be holding out for a potential appointment to Grays Harbor Superior Court should Judge Gordon Godfrey retire.
Spencer will face Interim Chief Criminal Deputy Katie Svoboda. Both Spencer and Svoboda had sought the prosecutor post, but neither got it after a fight embroiled between the Grays Harbor Democrats, which refused to support Spencer for the post; and the county commissioners, who decided though the process using by the Democrats to stack the deck in favor of Svoboda was unfair.
Spencer, a former superior court judge and a prosecutor from the 1980s, had previously run and won election as a Democrat. This time, however, he’s not decided what party affiliation he’ll file as. It may be Independent. It may be a hybrid name he comes up with, or, it may be as a Democrat.
“I am a Democrat but the process with the Grays Harbor Democrats left me with a very bad taste in my mouth,” Spencer said.”This is just about as hard a decision for me as deciding whether to file for office.”
Spencer said he decided to run for prosecutor because he has ideas for reforming the office and he has the experience on both the criminal and civil side.
Svoboda is filing as a Democrat. Svoboda has been with the Prosecutor’s Office since 2004 and is supported by Menefee and many local Democrats. If she were to win the post, she’d be the first female prosecutor in the county.
Meantime, Coroner Dan Burns announced his retirement. His position is up for filing this year.
Burns provided notice to County Commission Chairman Frank Gordon on April 28, saying he will retire on June 1.
“I would like to let you know that it has been my pleasure to work with you and to take this opportunity to thank you for your support of the Coroner’s Office,” Burns wrote.
Burns has more than 40 years of public service, including 25 as a Wastington State Trooper and 15 years with the Coroner’s Office, including the last five as the coroner.
Burns most recently advocated for a pay raise for his deputy coroners and himself, noting they were making pretty low wages compared to other county employees.
Burns is recommending Chief Deputy Coroner Lane Youmans to serve as coroner in the interim.
Burns said Youmans has his support and the experience necessary to take the job on a permanent basis, but the decision on who will take over the office until the November election will fall to the Grays Harbor Democrats and the County Commission.
Burns and wife Lorene will stay in the Grays Harbor area, he said, where they’ve been since 1975 when Burns was assigned to the area as a Washington State Patrol trooper.
“We’re going to do some vacationing, some traveling and do the things you do in retirement,” Burns said.
Meantime, a number of other elected posts will be up on the ballot when filing week starts on May 12.
The county commission seat being vacated by Republican Herb Welch has already drawn three candidates. Keith Olson of Lake Quinault will file as a Republican. Al Smith of Wishkah Valley will file as a Democrat and Cosmopolis Mayor Vickie Raines says she’s decided to file as “Neither Party.”
Raines had been flirting with the idea of filing as the “Nonpartisan Party,” but County Auditor Vern Spatz protested that move and said he may be willing to challenge it because it could be confusing to voters as the county posts are partisan races. Spatz said he didn’t really care what Raines filed, mentioning the Salmon Yoga Party is a particular favorite of his from a previous election.
Assessor Rick Hole is also seeking re-election. Hole, too, is running as a member of “Neither Party,” though his campaign is not affiliated with Raines’ campaign.
Hole will face Grays Harbor appraiser Dan Lindgren and Loni Hooper, who is the chief appraiser in Pacific County. Both are Democrats.
Meantime, Spatz has said he’ll file for re-election; as will Clerk Cheryl Brown, Treasurer Ron Strabbing, Sheriff Rick Scott.
This week, District Court Judge Stephen Brown annoucned he will seek re-election. The 58-year-old Elma resident was first elected to his post in 1996.
District Court Judge Tom Copland is also up for re-election as are PUD Commissioner Russ Skolrood and state Reps. Brian Blake, Dean Takko, Kevin Van De Wege and Steve Tharinger.
Filing fees are 1 percent of the annual salary. It costs $216 to run for PUD commissioner, for instance; and $762 to run for county commissioner.
Filing is allowed by mail from today through Friday, in person starting 8 a.m. Monday, May 12 through 4:30 p.m., Friday, May 16 and online 9 a.m., Monday, May 12 through 4 p.m., Friday, May 16.
Immediately following the close of filing, the Elections Department will conduct a lot draw to determine the order in which the names of candidates will appear on the ballot, according to county supervisor Katy Moore. The lot draw will be conducted in the Auditor’s Office. The public is welcome to observe. The primary election is Aug. 5. The General Election is Nov. 4. Any questions can be directed to Moore at (360) 964-1556.
Daily World reporter Brionna Friedrich contributed to this story.