Republicans appeared to be victorious in Whitman County's two contested races as commissioner District 3 candidate and Colfax farmer Michael Largent and incumbent Auditor Eunice Coker took strong leads over their young opponents.I agree completely with Michael Largent. Nathan Weller is a class act and we'll probably hear more from him in the future. I had a chance on Sunday to tell Nathan that personally as he was doorbelling in my neighborhood.
Largent, 48, was ahead of Nathan Weller, 24, with 4,180 votes to 3,272 when preliminary counting was completed Tuesday night. If his 12-point lead holds, he will replace outgoing Republican Commissioner Les Wigen.
Coker, 50, was beating Nathan Horter, 24, with 4,726 votes to 2,979, an advantage of about 22 percentage points.
County elections technician Karen Bafus said as many as 4,000 mail-in ballots will be counted and added to the totals later this week. She said about 2,000 ballots arrived on election day, and she anticipated at least 1,000 more would trickle in over the next few days.
But with such wide margins on election night, the Republican leads looked insurmountable.
In another strong result, a Pullman property tax levy to raise up to $2.24 million for the city's parks, paths and sidewalks was overwhelmingly approved, 2,392 to 936.
As of Tuesday night, 30 percent of registered voter's ballots had been counted, according to the county's elections Web site.
Largent said he was "very optimistic" that his lead would hold.
"One of the first things I'm going to do is reacquaint myself with my family," he said.
Weller's youth was probably a factor in his defeat, Largent said, but a greater factor was the cost of some of his proposals. He credited Weller for a spirited campaign. "He's a class act, and we're going to hear more from this young man in the future."
Coker also said her opponent's youth factored into the campaign. But it was her experience in the office that prevailed in the end, she said.
"It's what we've been campaigning on all along, all summer," she said.
Tuesday night's vote totals were announced at about 9:30 p.m., an hour later than election officials had originally predicted. Bafus said the delay was due to difficulties connecting to an overwhelmed Internet server.
Weller campaigned on a platform of proactive, hands-on government that could shape the county's economic future through economic development zones, especially in rural areas that aren't seeing the benefit of the Pullman economic sphere.
Largent took a different tack, saying the role of county government is to set up favorable conditions for new businesses, and then get out of the way. Easing requirements to build homes on farmland or unincorporated areas and streamlining business siting procedures were two ways to do that, he said.
Weller also saw a shortage of affordable housing as a roadblock to economic development. He chose to promote "cluster" developments on agricultural land that he said could save home buyers money by sharing infrastructure.
Both candidates said the county needs to do a better job of fostering alternative energy sources like wind and biodiesel. Largent cautioned it may be some time before farmers see the benefits of the state's burgeoning biofuel industry, however.
The auditor's race focused on Coker's performance during her last four years in office. Horter said she came up short on voter education, use of federal voting funds and listening to constituents.
Coker lauded her performance, especially in light of the work of her predecessors. She looked back to 2002 when she arrived at an office that was having trouble even paying the county's bills on time. During her term, she said the office has made a 180-degree turnaround. And she said she has successfully coped with hundreds of changes to state election laws during the last two years.
Horter told voters that if elected, he would increase education and outreach efforts so confusion -- such as with September's pick-a-party primary ballots -- could be avoided.
How the county voted:
Percentage of registered voters who voted: 30
Maria Cantwell, D: 51.32 percent
Mike McGavick, R: 45.34 percent
Bruce Guthrie, L: 1.33 percent
Robin Adair, I: 0.88 percent
Aaron Dixon, G: 1.04 percent
U.S. Representative, District 5
Cathy McMorris, R: 50.88 percent
Peter J. Goldmark, D: 48.88 percent
Initiative 920 -- Estate tax repeal
Yes: 32.36 percent
No: 67.64 percent
Initiative 933 -- Private property compensation
Yes: 40.67 percent
No: 59.33 percent
Initiative 937 -- Energy resource use by utilities
Yes: 48.52 percent
No: 51.48 percent
HJR 4223 -- Personal property exemption increase
Yes: 79.2 percent
No: 20.8 percent
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
"Whitman County votes Republican"
From today's Lewiston Tribune: