Incumbent Democrats in the geographically diverse 24th state legislative district easily appear to have won re-election Tuesday night in all three races.
Sen. Jim Hargrove, the forester from Hoquiam with 28 years in the Legislature, had the most sizable lead with 33,506 votes (65.5 percent) Tuesday night compared to 17,626 votes for retired Navy Command Master Chief Larry Carter, who ran as an Independent Party candidate.
In the Position 1 race for state representative, three-term Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, a lieutenant firefighter and paramedic from Sequim, had 32,367 votes (64.1 percent) to 18,109 votes for political newcomer and certified write-in candidate Craig Durgan of Port Ludlow. Durgan, a marine engineer and currently chief engineer on a drillship, stated no party preference in the race.
Rep. Steve Tharinger, running for his second term, had 30,049 votes (58.2 percent) to 21,567 votes for Republican Steve Gale, also making his first run for office in the district.
Tharinger was elected in 2010 to the seat vacated by the retiring Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam. He formerly ran a small woodworking business and was a Clallam County Commissioner for 12 years.
Gale is a former operations manager for industrial gas company Praxair Inc., who moved to Sequim from Bothell in January.
The district includes the Olympic Peninsula from Port Townsend, to Port Angeles, Neah Bay, Forks and into Grays Harbor County, covering Ocean Shores and Hoquiam.
Instead of celebrating the election, Hargove Tuesday was traveling to California with his wife to visit his daughter, choosing to monitor the results online.
“The results are holding pretty much as in the primary,” Hargrove said.
Hargrove was pleased to see that Democrat Jay Inslee was leading in the governor’s race, and believed he and other Democrats were helped by the popularity in the state of President Obama and Sen. Maria Cantwell, who easily won re-election.
With state voters also likely again approving a two-thirds voting provision for the Legislature on any new taxes (Initiative 1185), Hargrove said the state Senate has its work cut out for it next year. Hargrove currently chairs the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee.
“No matter what hapens, the Senate won’t have an overwhelming philosophical majority any way you look at it. It’s going to have to be pretty middle of the road as far as how we come up with budgets, spending and things like that,” Hargrove said.
“We’re going to have to sharpen our pencils and a lot of the things that I have been working on for years is helping save money by making government work better,” Hargrove added.
He was particularly pleased to see Van De Wege and Tharinger winning in the district. Tharinger actually did better with vote percentages in Grays Harbor County (6,697 votes, 57.5 percent) and Jefferson County (9,606 votes, 66. 6 percent) than he did in his home of Clallam County, where his 13,746 votes gave him 53.8 percent of the total compared to Gale’s 11,806 votes in the county.
“All three of us won all three counties, so that is pretty comfortable,” Hargrove said.
He was gratified he won by such a large margin, especially in Grays Harbor County, where he captured 67.1 percent of the vote.
“I have been in for 28 years, so people know a lot about me,” Hargrove said. “It’s pretty gratifying that they still feel like I’m the best choice to go to Olympia and work for them. That’s basically all we do. We’re public servants, and we’re there to do the best we can to serve people.”