MONTESANO — Republican Wes Cormier appears to be winning with 51.9 percent of the vote in his bid to unseat Democratic Grays Harbor County Commissioner Terry Willis. Assuming the lead holds, it would give Republicans a majority on the commission for the first time in about 80 years.
In the other county commission race, Democrat Frank Gordon was an easy winner with 57.5 percent of the vote against Republican Allan Shores.
In votes counted on Election Day, Cormier leads Willis, 11,838 votes to 10,993 votes. Gordon led Shores, 13,025 votes to 9,622.
Cormier’s win would also mean the board will have a sharp learning curve, leaving Republican County Commissioner Herb Welch, just two years into his first term, as the senior commissioner.
Willis losing means she’s the third incumbent county commissioner in a row to lose a seat. Two years ago, Welch beat incumbent Al Carter and then Commissioner Mike Wilson was ousted in the primary.
Grays Harbor County Auditor Vern Spatz said his office counted 24,528 ballots on Election Day, out of 38,307 registered voters. That’s a turnout of 64 percent, so far. But Spatz said he expects another 5,000 ballots to be counted when the next batch of ballots are released Friday afternoon. None of the ballots dropped off or mailed on Election Day were included in Tuesday night’s results. Certification date is Nov. 27.
At a small party at the restored Hubble House bed and breakfast in Montesano, Willis gathered with her supporters as her husband Greg read the results out loud.
“Sorry folks, we’re behind,” Willis told her supporters. “We’re behind by 900 votes. It probably won’t change. I’m going to predict it doesn’t change. If we weren’t ahead tonight it probably won’t change, even if they have more votes to count. I’m sorry guys, after all our hard work we’re behind and I don’t think it’s going to change. It’s going to stay the same percentages.”
Willis thanked Diane and Frank Kirsch as well as Dick and Ruth Kivi for their support; as well as her daughter Lisa Dilley and son-in-law Scott Dilley, who served as campaign managers.
“I don’t know what else we could have done and what other avenues we could have gone to in order to convince the population to keep me in office, but I have no regrets whatsoever,” she told her supporters. “We did as much as we possibly could in the last four years. Needless to say, I’m disappointed. We can always wish for miracles, but the percentages probably won’t change. We’ll wait until every vote is counted in case it does change.”
The Democratic Central Committee hosted a party at the Polish Club in Aberdeen and cheered for Gordon when he won. Gordon brought most of his family to the event.
“I’ve had a knot in my stomach the last few hours so I feel pretty comfortable now,” Gordon said after the results were known. “I have all my friends and family to thank and I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world and I can tell you, there’s going to be some changes coming to Montesano on January 1st.”
Gordon said he has no plans to resign from his Aberdeen City Council seat until the end of the year. “We’re right in the middle of the council budget and it’s a really important time,” he said.
Cormier and Shores both attended a Republican gathering at the Abel House in Montesano. Cormier stayed for about an hour and then went to watch the returns at his family’s home in Elma.
“I’m still in shock,” said Cormier, who works as an appraiser in the county Assessor’s Office. “This is just amazing and, although there’s still more ballots to count, I’m definitely optimistic about the results.”
Cormier noted that he was able to convince about 7 percent of the Harbor voters who cast their votes for President Obama to cross over and vote for him, instead of a sitting Democratic commissioner.
“I appreciate the people who were willing to reach across the aisle and give me a chance,” Cormier said.
Cormier lauded Willis for being a good campaigner and said he has respect for the way she handled her campaign.
Shores conceded his race to Gordon, saying he didn’t think he’d be able to close a gap of more than 3,000 votes.
“I really thought it’d be closer than that,” Shores said. “Maybe it’ll narrow a little on Friday but not by that much. I just want to thank all of the people who have prayed for me and supported me and helped me out. I never would have had an opportunity to meet so many good people on the Harbor had I not tossed my hat in the ring.”
Shores said his one good hope about the election is seeing a Republican majority on the board come next January.