Cosmopolis Mayor Vickie Raines shifted campaign gears to the general election Wednesday as Keith Olson and Al Smith sat idling in second place waiting for the next vote count in the race for Grays Harbor County Commissioner District 3. Jim Heikel, the fourth candidate in the race, formally conceded.
The top two vote getters in the four-way race proceed to a countywide election in November. The next vote count is expected Friday.
The race for second place is a virtual dead heat between Democrat Smith, who has 26.5 percent of the vote and Republican Olson, who garnered 25.2 percent and trails Smith by just 58 votes.
Indepedent Jim Heikel came in a distant fourth with close to 15 percent. “It’s not realistic that the numbers would change that dramatically,” he said.
“I am very happy with overall returns as far as where I stand and I have still got work, lots of work to do,” Raines said Wednesday.
“I think it will be me and Al,” said Raines, who is running with no party preference. “It doesn’t matter to me. I am running my race. I am not running Al Smith’s race or Keith Olson’s race. It’s not going to impact how I run my race.”
“If Al wins, I hope Keith will support me,” she said, adding Olson told her he would support her candidacy if he lost as she agreed to support his if she lost.
“I am going to focus on bringing what I can bring to the table and I hope my opponent does as well.” she said. If you look at the election as a whole “it’s evident to me that people don’t always vote by party affiliation,” she added.
Heikel did not endorse anyone Wednesday. “I wish the best for the two who will move into the general and hope it’s a clean race based on the issues,” he said.
With a total of 4,449 of 13,485 eligible District 3 ballots counted so far, Raines has 1,484 votes, Smith 1,180, Olson, 1,122 and Heikel, 663. Turnout overall in the county is 31 percent. The county auditor has until Aug. 19 to certify the election results.
Only voters living in District 3’s 31 precincts could vote in the commission primary. In the general election the vote is countywide. More than 2,900 more primary ballots arrived at election headquarters Wednesday, said Katy Moore, county election supervisor.
District 3 is large, running west to the beaches from just east of Central Park, dipping down to snag Cosmopolis before heading to North Beach. It runs north all the way up to Jefferson County and includes Amanda Park and Quinault. The largest population centers are in Hoquiam and Ocean Shores.
Raines, ahead in 15 of 31 precincts, is faring well in Hoquiam and her home turf of Cosmopolis. She is winning in all Hoquiam precincts but one, and bested Heikel is his home precinct of rural Hoquiam. Heikel is winning only one of 31 precincts, the only Hoquiam precinct where Raines is not.
“I believe Hoquiam citizens have seen the progress made in Cosmopolis as have (those in) the Wishkah valley area,” she said.
Smith is ahead of Raines in the three precincts in Ocean Shores and is winning in eight of the 31 precincts. Raines and Olson are beating Smith by wide margins in his home precinct of Cutoff in the Wishkah area.
Olson will likely have to do better in urban precincts to pull off second place. Smith will probably have to hold narrow leads he has over Olson in Ocean Shores and Hoquiam to prevail. Olson and Smith are tied for second in one Hoquiam precinct.
Raines wasn’t sure why she is not doing as well as she would like in Ocean Shores. It may be because she talked about her record as mayor and not enough about issues specific to the area, she said. She will know more as results come in, she said.
Olson is winning in five of the 31 precincts and looks to win his home precinct of Quinault handily. Olson fared better than he expected in Ocean Shores, running close to Raines and Smith for second place in all three precincts there.
One precinct, Geissler, is now a tie between Raines and Olson for first place at nine votes each, Smith got four and Heikel one. Two precincts, North Wishkah and Sierra so far register zero votes.
“I am thrilled with (how the) numbers look right now, very grateful for my team,” Raines said Tuesday night at a gathering of around 40 at Simpson Avenue Grill. She thanked her family and campaign group, “who worked very hard. It’s overwhelming to see the amount of support we have received.”
“We will probably know Friday and it’s anybody’s guess. We’ll just have to wait and see,” said Smith from Pat’s Trim and Style on Simpson Avenue where he watched results with Commission President Frank Gordon, whose wife owns the business. Gordon has made no secret of his support for Smith and opposition to Raines.
“Guess it’s anybody’s race,” said Olson, who celebrated with family and friends Tuesday night at his home in Quinault. “Vickie’s probably number one.” There were four really strong candidates and “I expected to be right here,” he said.
“It was a good experience, I learned a lot,” said Heikel Tuesday. “I am OK with it. It’s a crap shoot,” he said.
Raines said she spent $18,000 on the primary portion of the campaign and expects to have to spend $10,000 to $15,000 more as it widens to the entire county.
Smith’s strategy will change if he goes to the general election, he said. There may be more pointed campaigning against Raines for spending issues and for unspecified political actions he claims she has taken behind closed doors.
Raines said she would respond to any inaccurate statements made about her. “Make it the truth,” she said.
Raines said Tuesday she would “like to compliment Jim Heikel. He has demonstrated he is a stand-up guy, a class act (who) ran a campaign regarding the issues and not against the candidates,” she said. “As far as the other two, and the self-proclaimed fifth candidate, I have no comment.”
Wednesday, Heikel also thanked his family, friends and “the voters who thought I was worthy of their vote.” He may run for office again one day and looks forward to a new career as a financial planner. The retired Hoquaim firefighter hopes to help bring financial literacy to the Harbor.