Absentee ballots have continued to flow in to the Klickitat County Auditor's Office over the past week, and with virtually all the results now in, we have the winners.
The Republican candidate, David Sauter, prevailed in a landslide in the key race to fill an open seat on the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners. The affable Sauter ran a strong race and swamped his Democratic Party challenger, Chris Connolly.
Updated results showed Sauter with 3,904 votes, or 55.1 percent, versus Connolly's 3,176 votes for 44.8 percent.
Sauter's win ensures that the District 2 seat, which came open following the retirement of popular long-time Commissioner Joan Frey of Lyle, will remain in Republican hands for at least another four years.
Sauter said he was glad the long campaign season was over.
"That was probably the most exhausting thing I've ever done, given how long a period it was," Sauter said. "I kicked off on July 8, a little earlier than usual for a county race."
Sauter added that he made a point of removing all of his campaign signs across the county once the votes were counted.
"I think we all have sign fatigue," he explained. "I wanted our signs down right after the election, so we went out and got them. The dust has settled, so let's move on."
Sauter pointed out that he will govern as a representative of all the county's residents.
"For all the people who didn't vote for me, I heard your voice, too," Sauter said. "I'm going to be everybody's commissioner, not just those who voted for me. I'm humbled by the support."
Another heavily contested county-wide race matched Democratic Party incumbent Auditor Dede Pafford against Republican Party challenger Brenda Sorensen.
With almost all of the votes now in, Sorensen narrowly won a four-year term as Auditor by 164 votes in unofficial results. Sorensen had 3,601 votes (51.1 percent) as opposed to Pafford's 3,437 votes (48.8 percent).
Several candidates running for Klickitat County offices faced no opposition on Nov. 7. Winners there included: Rick McComas for Klickitat County Sheriff; Tim O'Neill for Prosecuting Attorney; H.J. "Van" Vandenberg for Assessor; Saundra L. Olsen for County Clerk; and Dani Burton for Treasurer. All except for Burton are Republicans, and Burton now becomes the only Democrat serving in a county-wide position in Klickitat County.
District Court judges Brian Altman and Robert Weisfield were also re-elected without opposition.
In a contentious battle for a six-year term on the Klickitat Public Utility District Commission, two-term incumbent Commissioner Randy Knowles handily topped challenger Bob Havig in updated returns. Knowles had 3,491 votes for 54.7 percent, while Havig had 2,869 votes, 45 percent.
On Friday, Knowles said he was glad the race was over.
"It's good to touch base with people and see if they approve of what we're doing. Obviously, if I'm re-elected, it is," Knowles said. "There is plenty to keep us busy with what we have in the hopper. Obviously, Condit Dam will percolate around for awhile."
According to Knowles, the passage of Initiative 937, a statewide measure that calls for utilities to set energy conservation and renewable energy targets could be a boon for the PUD.
"That will create another opportunity to merchandise our green resources, and opens a broader market for our landfill gas, McNary Dam, and our wind projects," Knowles explained. "There will be more demand for our resource portfolio and more tax benefits to the county. We have a huge economic interest with what occurred with 937."
In Skamania County, the campaign for a four-year term on the Skamania County Board of Commissioners was close, but it appears that the Democratic Party candidate was on her way to taking the seat. In the latest returns as of Nov. 20, Democrat Jamie Tolfree held a lead of 31 votes over Republican Tracy Wyckoff. Tolfree had 2,000 votes (50.4 percent), with Wyckoff at 1,969 votes (49.6 percent).
Also in Skamania County, voters strongly backed incumbent Republican Mike Garvison for Skamania County Auditor, with Garvison taking a new term with 53.3 percent of the vote. Democrat Ila Mae Thompson had 46.7 percent.
In the battle for local legislative district seats, State Sen. Jim Honeyford (R.-15th District) trounced his Democratic Party challenger, Tomas Villanueva. Honeyford, a local political icon in the Republican Party, was re-elected with about 62 percent of the vote, with Villanueva at about 38 percent.
"It's what I anticipated," Honeyford said. "I looked at the numbers, and that seems to be the hard Democrat base, about 30-35 percent."
Statewide, however, Honeyford pointed out that Democrats picked up several more seats in the Washington House and in the Washington Senate, expanding their majorities and giving them even more control of the legislative process.
"It makes life more difficult," Honeyford said. "We'll have to work harder and smarter."
Honeyford said he had been around long enough to understand that sometimes the political pendulum swings the other way.
"It was part of a big tidal wave," Honeyford commented. "I came in in 1994 in a big tidal wave, and a lot of people I came in with went out on this wave. It was such a tidal wave, I don't think if we'd had a billion dollars (for campaigning) it would have made much difference."
Despite the setbacks for his party, Honeyford said he would continue doing his best to serve his constituents.
"I enjoy working for the people of Klickitat County and Skamania County," he said. "It's very rewarding to work with people who let me know what their wants, wishes, and needs are, and respond to some of them."
Two other 15th District Republicans also won re-election: incumbents Dan Newhouse and Bruce Chandler will return to Olympia after easily holding their seats in the State House of Representatives.
In a surprising sign of changing times, Klickitat County gave most of its support to the Democratic Party candidate for U.S. Senate this year. The county has traditionally been a reliable source of Republican votes in statewide races, but this year, Sen. Maria Cantwell carried 49.7 percent of the votes in Klickitat County, while her Republican challenger, Mike McGavick, had 46.7 percent.
Statewide, Cantwell ended up winning with about 57 percent of the vote to McGavick's 40 percent.
Voters in Fire District 3 (the Husum-BZ Corner area) rejected a "maintenance & operations" levy to upgrade fire stations and other infrastructure improvements. The measure failed with 736 "No" votes against 482 "Yes" votes.
In the Lyle area, however, voters in Fire District 4 gave strong support to a levy lid lift. The levy there passed with 217 "Yes" votes against 164 "No" votes.
As of Nov. 13, voter turnout was at 66.6 percent in Klickitat County. Statewide, the turnout rate was 52.7 percent.