County will hold primary, no 3-way Port Orchard races yet

Former Port Orchard City Councilman Rick Wyatt was unwilling to commit to whether he would run for a council position, saying on Wednesday “there is still one person I need to talk to before announcing anything.”

Wyatt served for 12 years on the council before being defeated by Fred Olin, 58 percent to 42 percent. Wyatt cannot reclaim his old seat, but would run against one of four incumbents who are on the ballot.

At press time two incumbents, Fred Chang and Carolyn Powers, were facing challengers. Jerry Childs and Rob Putaansuu are so far unopposed.

According to Kitsap County Elections Supervisor Dolores Gilmore, many candidates wait until the last minute (in this case 5 p.m. Friday) to make their intentions known.

Wyatt turned away repeated queries about his plans this week, saying “I have until Friday to say one way or the other.” He indicated that his paperwork was ready for filing, and that he was not happy with the recent direction of the council.

If Wyatt runs he could enter a race that already has two candidates, or one where the incumbent is currently unopposed. But any race with any more than two candidates will require a primary runoff.

Furthermore, the cost of the primary is paid by the entitity where the election occurs, with the amount decided as to how many other municipalities require a primary contest.

At press time the only three-way contests in the county is for the Mayor of Bremerton and Poulsbo City Council. If this continues, both cities would pay a proportional share of the primary cost, which could exceed $100,000.

Gilmore said that costs cannot be accurately determined prior to the election, and that each city receives a bill after the totals are figured.

“The cost of printing and processing ballots has increased in recent years,” said Gilmore. “This really makes a difference in our budget.”

The county recently saved $44,000 a year by converting its voters’ pamplhlet into a digital publication, constracting with Democracy Live of Bellevue to produce a virtual guide. The next budget-saving step will be the ability to cast a vote from a home computer, but security issues need to be resolved before this can occur.

Currently, if a third candidate files for any contested race in Poulsbo, Bainbridge Island, Port Orchard, the Port of Bremerton, or any school or fire district that entity would be billed proportionately for the cost of the primary. In this way, the bill for the election is paid by the cities involved in the activity.

“We take into consideration the number of voters in the election,” said Gilmore. “We also consider the number of races in the specific city. So if one council race in Port Orchard is contested, Port Orchard would not pay half of the cost of the primary with Bremerton where there are six candidates for mayor and a larger voter base.”

Even in stark financial times few voters are aware that a primary adds extra cost to the election. Nor should they be, according to former Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel.

“I think you run against who you want to oppose,” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether it makes the election a little more expensive.” Added current Mayor Lary Coppola “candidates run against who they want to run against and let the chips fall where they may.”

Paul Nuchims, who ran a scruff of the neck campaign for South Kitsap Commissioner in 2008, said that election cost should not determine whether to run or not.

“Hypothetically, you could be the third candidate in a race where you feel the other two are corrupt,” he said. “Your candidacy then becomes a necessary service to the voters. In that case, spending a few dollars and spreading it around among the taxpayers is worth it.”

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