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Mahan still sorting out surprising election loss

Monty Mahan was the first to declare for the South Kitsap commissioner’s seat last fall, after incumbent Jan Angel announced she would not seek a third term.

He became the immediate front runner, picked up several high-profile endorsements, and evolved into what some believed to be the most logical choice for the office.

He was a moderate and appealed to voters who did not tack strictly to the left or right. Plus, he had a large, enthusiastic family, and was part of a political dynasty — his father, Port of Bremerton Commissioner Bill Mahan, is also a former county commissioner.

Problem was, Mahan finished third in the top-two primary — easily the night’s biggest surprise.

And no one was more surprised than the candidate himself, who said on Tuesday, “I was in a state of shock when I heard the first results. There is no reason why people vote the way they do.”

After two days’ reflection, he had gone through several scenarios about why he did not do as well as he — and nearly everyone else — expected.And his conclusion was that he wasn’t aggressive enough and did not toot his own horn.

He didn’t send out glossy advertising fliers or buy TV spots, as his opponents chose to do.

The top-two primary hurt him with moderate voters, Mahan believes, and several people who expected to win voted against other candidates rather than for him.

“A lot of people said they expected that I would get the most votes, so they voted against the other candidate they feared most,” he said. “I wasn’t able to explain that the best way to support me was to vote for me.”

And he quickly acknowledges the elephant in the room.

“I love my dad,” he said. “I am not a bit ashamed of him, but a lot of people mistook me for my father at first. Other voters knew I wasn’t my father but didn’t like him, so they voted against me.

“I did my homework in this race about all the issues,” the younger Mahan said. “I was ready to be county commissioner. But if people are going to judge me because they dislike one of my family members, then maybe it was the hand of God telling me that this was not supposed to be.”

Mahan said called his father someone who is “larger than life, who has affected a lot of peoples’ lives.

“For the entire time I have been in Kitsap County I have lived and worked in the shadow of Bill Mahan,’” he said. “So it is refreshing to work in Pierce County, where I am ‘Monty Mahan’ and I can be my own person. I have accomplished a lot there, and the people I work with are glad that I am not leaving. And I won’t be split between my job and running for office.”

Mahan, who is the director of the Pierce County Conservation District, said he has not yet determined his next political step. He has not ruled out a return to Kitsap, but has set certain boundaries.

“When I left my job in Kitsap County in 2001, I swore that I would never return if I could not be in charge,” he said. “I was tired of pointing out problems and not being able to fix them.”

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