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Stokes doubles up on Huntington

Although one of her challengers received more than twice as many votes as she did Tuesday, Port of Bremerton Commissioner Mary Ann Huntington was far from discouraged this week when asked about the results.

“I’m elated that I’m heading on to the general election,” Huntington said Thursday, explaining she was not surprised at the tallies that so for have given Port Orchard resident Larry Stokes 56 percent to her 27 percent.

“I feel good — I’ve pretty much devoted myself full-time to the port and this community,” she said while taking a break from handing out school books at South Kitsap High School. “The port is extremely important to me, and I think my hard work will pay off.”

The general election will also be very different than Tuesday’s primary, Huntington said, explaining that while only District 2, and therefore South Kitsap residents, voted this month, all three of the port districts will be allowed to vote in November.

And while she said a lot of South Kitsap residents are unhappy about a recent tax increase the port levied to pay for rebuilding the Bremerton Marina, many of the district’s residents in Bremerton feel differently.

“They are very excited, and believe in Bremerton and the rebirth of it,” she said, adding that the new marina will be just one of her many accomplishments over the past 18 years as commissioner.

“I think I’ve made a lot of good changes,” she said. “But if people are unhappy with me for one thing and they want to get rid of me for that one thing, then that’s the American way.”

Stokes, who by Thursday had 2,781 votes to Huntington’s 1,353, said he believed voters were definitely voicing their displeasure over the port’s recent 45-cent tax hike, and that one commissioner was taking the heat for the entire board.

“Unfortunately, Mary Ann’s taking the brunt of the whole thing for what three people did,” he said. “She’s only one vote, and it’s too bad all three of them aren’t up for re-election.”

District 1 Commissioner Cheryl Kincer, elected to the board in 1998, is not up for election until 2009, and District 3 Commissioner Bill Mahan, first elected in 2000, will not finish his current term until 2011.

Despite the frustration that Stokes said he and other SK voters have about the recent tax hike, the challenger admitted he was still surprised at how many votes he ultimately garnered.

“I did much better than I thought I would,” he said, explaining that he decided to run because “I completely disagreed with what they did. But (I knew how many votes I got) would depend on how unhappy the other taxpayers were.”

And though he earned 56 percent of the votes and could conceivably pick up all or most of the 14.79 percent that fellow challenger Martin DiIenno has collected so far, Stokes said he does not think he’s guaranteed to win back the port seat he gave up 18 years ago.

“Oh, no — I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch,” he said. “Things can turn around quick.”

Stokes, 68, said he does not own a boat or plane, but he’s paid taxes in Kitsap County for 36 years and cares for, and plans to stay in, Kitsap County.

“I really think (the port) should have come up with something different for us taxpayers,” he said after announcing his plan to run, explaining that while he researched the port’s tax increase and determined “they didn’t do anything illegal,” he was still angry enough to decide to run.

Huntington’s other challenger, Martin DiIenno, who did not earn enough votes to move on, said he was also inspired to run largely out of frustration.

“I want to see a turnaround in the (port’s) fiscal policies,” said DiIenno, explaining that as a boat owner who has rented a slip at the Port Orchard Marina for 20 years, his “number one” complaint was the “7.5 percent rate increase we pay every six months.”

Huntington is running for her fourth term as port commissioner, and points to accomplishments such as rebuilding the PO marina after a snowstorm and “forming a partnership with the Port Orchard Soroptomists to complete (my) dream of a children’s playground at the Marina Park.”

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