PACIFIC COUNTY - Pacific County voters returned incumbent county commissioners to office and joined citizens in seven other Western Washington counties in supporting Democrat Christine Gregoire for Washington governor.

As of Friday, Nov. 5, with most absentee ballots now counted, Democratic incumbent Jon Kaino received 5,525 votes to Republican Jamie Webber's 4,180, or 57 percent to 43 percent. Kaino will again represent county District No. 1, which includes Ilwaco, Chinook, Naselle, Bay Center and South Bend.

Commissioner Bud Cuffel, who represents the Peninsula, had 5,358 votes as of Friday, compared to Republican challenger Rudy DeSwart's 3,937 votes, or 58 percent to 42 percent.

A few more absentee ballots may come in before the election is certified on Nov. 17, but there are not enough outstanding to affect any local race.

The Washington governor's race still was up in the air as of Tuesday, Nov. 9, with Gregoire locked in a close contest with former Republican State Sen. Dino Rossi. Gregoire leads Rossi by 8,700 votes. There are 213,000 absentee ballots still outstanding, though in practice not all those will be returned to counties and counted.

According to the Seattle Times, Gregoire's lead after Monday was about one-third of 1 percent of the more than 2.5 million ballots counted so far. A recount is required by law if the final difference is less than one-half of 1 percent and less than 2,000 votes.

Traditionally Democratic Pacific County held true to past form in supporting Gregoire, one of only eight of the state's 39 counties to do so. She received 5,185 votes here, or 51 percent, as of Monday, compared to 4,710, or 46 percent of Rossi, and 294 votes, or 3 percent, for Libertarian Ruth Bennett.

This support for the Democrat for governor was relatively soft compared to the county's support for incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, who carried 72 percent of the county's ballots, as opposed to 28 percent for Republican challenger Thomas Crowson. The popular Baird won re-election throughout the Third Congressional District.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, the Democrat, was re-elected statewide over chief opponent Republican U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt. In our county, Murray won by 57 percent to 40 percent.

The county also supported Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry over President George W. Bush, 53 percent to 44 percent.

In the county, former Democratic Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn carried the race for state attorney general 49 percent to 46 percent over Republican Robb McKenna, but McKenna won statewide. Republican Sam Reed was re-elected state secretary of state over Democrat Laura Ruderman and the GOP's Doug Sutherland won re-election as state lands commissioner. Pacific County voters preferred Ruderman, 50 to 46 percent, but liked Sutherland 52 to 45 percent.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Brad Owen was re-elected statewide and garnered about 59 percent of Pacific County ballots. Democrats also carried the day for state treasurer and auditor.

Terry Bergeson was re-elected superintendent of public instruction over former superintendent Judith Billings, who advocated a softening in some educational strategies such as the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, the WASL tests. In Pacific County, Bergeson captured 56.5 percent of the vote.

In other county races, incumbent Public Utility District 1 Commissioner Ron Hatfield was re-elected over challenger K.C. Brown by 68.5 percent to 31.5 percent. In PUD District 2, Paul Cole was unopposed on the ballot.

Our local state legislators and Superior Court judge were unopposed and were re-elected.

On statewide initiatives, county and state voters approved I-872 for a new top-two primary election system and I-297, which attempts to limit shipments of low-level radioactive wastes to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

County and state voters turned down initiatives that sought to raise the sales tax to support schools, authorize more charter schools, and increase legalized gambling in the state.

Of the county's 13,171 registered voters, 10,565 cast ballots, an 80 percent turnout, not a record.

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