Last Tuesday’s primary election results, local and statewide, may have determined a few things heading into the November general election, but the voting did not produce absolute clarity.
Much remains to be debated and decided in the coming three months, and it behooves us all to pay attention — though politics have become increasingly tiresome and divisive. We can’t emphasize enough that voting matters, and informed voting matters even more.
In Okanogan County, we now have some important matchups for the November elections, with a lot at stake for candidates and their constituents.
The sheriff’s race has narrowed to one-term incumbent Tony Hawley and Twisp Police Chief Paul Budrow, whose tireless campaigning to boost name recognition beyond the Methow Valley appears to have paid off. As of early this week, before the final count was in, Hawley had drawn about 40% of the votes compared to Budrow’s 38% — pretty close. A third candidate, Kevin Newport, was far enough back at 20% to ensure that Hawley and Budrow will advance.
It may be concerning to Hawley that 60% of the county’s voters chose someone else in the primary. Where Newport’s voters will go is open to conjecture, but either Budrow or Hawley will need at least half of them to have a shot at winning. This one may go down to the wire.
In the contest to fill the District 3 seat on the Okanogan County Board of Commissioners, Lloyd Caton Jr. of Tonasket — familiar in that community as a school board member — and longtime Oroville Mayor Jon Neal were the top finishers in the primary, separated by only about 100 votes early this week. These are people that residents of the Methow Valley should get to know, as the winner will be one of three commissioners making vital decisions about the county’s operations and policies.
While valley residents didn’t get to vote in the District 3 primary, they will have a say in the general election outcome. Assuming Caton and Neal emerge from the primary in something of a dead heat, they will be looking to District 3 supporters of trailing candidates Aaron Kester and Kari Alexander for support, as well as to voters in the other two county commissioner districts. That may be a tough race to handicap. The Methow’s votes could make a difference.
Perhaps most intriguing because it is so unusual is the apparent advance of incumbent Okanogan County Coroner Dave Rodriguez — a familiar figure in the Methow Valley — to the November general election. Unusual because Rodriguez said earlier he was retiring, and chose not to seek re-election.
However, just a few days before the primary, at the urging of supporters Rodriguez launched a last-minute write-in campaign against Rojean (Jeannie) Hughes of Tonasket, who had been the only candidate whose name was on the ballot.
As of this week, write-ins accounted for 17% of the reported vote — well above the threshold for a write-in candidate to advance to the general election. That means Rodriguez will likely have his name on the ballot next time. It would be remarkable — though not necessarily surprising given his name recognition throughout the county — if Rodriguez is re-elected.
In Congressional District 4, Rep. Dan Newhouse appears to have held off a half-dozen Republican challengers and will move on to November, along with Democrat Doug White. Both had about 25% of the district-wide vote earlier this week, while former Republican gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp was out of the race with 20%. Although that may not stop Culp, who baselessly challenged his overwhelming 2020 defeat by Jay Inslee, from contesting the primary results.
In Okanogan County, White actually was the primary “winner” with 31% of the vote, while Culp drew 29% and Newhouse about 23%. Democrats may find hope in White’s showing in the county and district-wide, but White still has a long way to go if he’s to draw off a significant chunk of the 75% who voted for Newhouse or his challengers. The incumbent congressman won easily two years ago in a largely conservative district, which in the primary was showing its discontent with his courageous and justified vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.
Newhouse’s colleague in the 3rd District, incumbent Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, was not faring as well. It appears her Republican challenger Joe Kent and Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez will finish one-two in the primary and face off in November. Herrera Beutler also voted to impeach Trump.
One issue is already settled: Okanogan and Douglas county residents of Hospital District 1 (Three Rivers Hospital) wisely and overwhelmingly approved the district’s request to renew its excess property tax levy that supports emergency room operations.
As for the rest — take a deep breath and a brief recess from politics, and then get ready for November.