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Angel earns House seat as Abel concedes

Jan Angel greets well-wishers during a celebration Tuesday night at Amy
Jan Angel greets well-wishers during a celebration Tuesday night at Amy's by the Bay in Port Orchard. The South Kitsap commissioner earned a seat in the state House of Representatives by defeating former Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel.
— image credit: Jeff Rhodes/Staff Photo

South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel has prevailed over former Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel to win the 26th District's Position 1 seat in the Washington state Legislature.

The seat is now held by Rep. Patricia Lantz, who is retiring after six terms.

Abel conceded the contest on Thursday night after the newest vote tallies, which showed Angel leading 52 percent to 47 percent. (For the latest results, visit www.portorchardindependent.com.)

"This has been an extraordinary election, and I am grateful to all those who supported me," Abel said in a written statement. "Now, all of us should work together to find solutions, especially in the face of tight budgets. I wish Jan the very best as she moves to represent our district in Olympia."

Abel said she did not have any immediate explanation for her defeat, but speculated that Angel's two terms as county commissioner impressed voters more than her own single term as mayor.

Angel has been cautiously optimistic since the polls closed on Tuesday night. While the race was close, she consistently maintained and extended her lead.

"We ran a strong, positive campaign," Angel said. "Our numbers have increased and I expected we would continue to do well."

Angel, who is in Florida until next week, had not yet heard directly from Abel on Thursday night.

The race was unique in two respects: It was the last local contest to be resolved and Angel was the only local Republican candidate to prevail.

Angel bucked the national and local trend that found her party in widespread defeat. She said her apparent victory represented "a good report card" for her two terms as county commissioner.

While she has become better known as a commissioner, she ran her own business in South Kitsap for 16 years prior to her first term as commissioner eight years ago.

"A lot of people knew me as a businesswoman before I was a politician," she said. "This had a lot to do with my ability to draw people from both sides of the aisle."

The district straddles Pierce and Kitsap counties, and while there are more voters in Kitsap, Angel led by a slightly larger margin in Pierce.

After Thursday's report, about 22,500 votes remained to be counted in Kitsap County. Pierce County officials could not estimate the number of ballots to be counted because they are still arriving in the mail.

Each county is posting its results online once a day. The total is immediately reflected on the Secretary of State's Web site, combining the totals.

Angel declared her intention to run for the seat in January, at which point incumbent Democrat Pat Lantz hadn't yet announced her retirement.

Lantz had said throughout the legislative session that she planned to run again because she didn't want to appear to be a lame duck.

After the session, Lantz announced her intention to step down on the same day Abel declared for the seat.

Angel is winding up her second term as county commissioner, while Abel served one term as Port Orchard mayor from 2004 to 2008 but decided to not seek re-election.

Abel considered running for Angel's South Kitsap commissioner seat, but instead decided on the Legislature.

Both candidates are well-known throughout the county and have strong support from their respective parties. Both served on the same boards and have worked together on a number of issues.

The two have differed on several issues and were on opposite sides of the NASCAR question. And despite intentions to stay cordial, it didn't take long for the race to become contentious.

Much of the criticism was indirect. Abel's supporters felt Angel was too close to the real estate and business community, while Abel was criticized for her record as mayor and that Port Orchard fell out of compliance in its comprehensive plan under her stewardship.

The campaign, always close, heated up in its final weeks.

Angel criticized the negative campaigning by Abel and her followers, saying that, "We always tried to take the uphill side of the issue."

Abel didn't feel she had gone negative, saying, "We had a great message and got a lot of voters to participate."

Nevertheless, inaccurate third-party "soft money" mailers were sent out by supporters of both candidates, while neither Abel nor Angel had an opportunity to correct what went out under what appeared to be their own name.

In one case, a GOP mailer erroneously stated that Angel had both an undergraduate and graduate degree. A Democratic party watchdog group caught the inaccuracy and blasted Angel, while the GOP then attacked Abel.

Both candidates decried the increase in negative campaigning, with each accusing the other of the most egregious exaggerations of the truth.

Abel said she plans to stay involved in local issues, and will work to support the upcoming South Kitsap School Levy.

Upon her return from Florida Angel expects to attend an orientation for new legislators that will give her the needed background to work as a legislator.

The second 26th District house race was not so close and was called shortly after polls closed on Tuesday.

Democrat incumbent Larry Seaquist pulled ahead of his challenger, Gig Harbor businesswoman Marlyn Jensen, 58.93 percent to 41.07 percent.

Seaquist, a retired Navy captain, was first elected in 2006. Jensen, who owns a property management company, was making her first run at elected office.

Aside from the voter spread, the Jensen/Seaquist race had another clear difference with the Abel/Angel battle in its general cordiality.

Jensen and Seaquist decided together to keep the campaign out of the personal realm, a promise both say they were able to keep.

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