By JESSE BURKHARDT
Election 2010 is finally in the books, and a lot of familiar faces will continue to serve Klickitat County residents.
In Klickitat County, the incumbents who ran for another term prevailed -- most of them without even seeing an opponent. Klickitat County Sheriff Rick McComas (R) ran unopposed and will serve a new four-year term, as will Klickitat County Treasurer Dani Burton (D), and Klickitat County Clerk Saundra Olson (R).
Two incumbents did face challengers, but both won handily. Klickitat County Commissioner David Sauter (R) faced a write-in campaign from Dallesport resident Laura Morris, with Sauter winning nearly 90 percent of the vote to win another four years in office. And Klickitat County Auditor Brenda Sorensen (R) won her contest against Connie Kayser in a big way -- 77 percent for Sorensen to 22 percent for Kayser.
"I am both honored and flattered by the large margin in my race," Sorensen said on Nov. 13. "I plan to continue running the office in the same manner as I have throughout my past term; I see no reason for change in beginning a new term."
Sorensen added that she was grateful for the vote of confidence from citizens around the county.
"I am very appreciative of the overwhelming support shown, and thank all of my supporters," Sorensen said. "I look forward to my next term and serving the citizens of Klickitat County."
In open races, Lori Hoctor (R) won the Klickitat County Prosecuting Attorney's seat with over 54 percent of the vote over fellow Republican Craig Juris, Klickitat County's current deputy prosecuting attorney.
White Salmon's Darlene Johnson (R) carried the day in her bid to take over the Klickitat County Assessor's Office for the next four years. Johnson, who topped Democratic Party challenger Victoria Allen with nearly 57 percent of the vote, will replace outgoing Assessor Van Vandenberg, who decided against running for a new term.
"I fully anticipated that this would be a close election, and the only way to win the election was to make sure our message of fair and equal assessments got out to the voters," Johnson said on Monday. "I have to give credit to the margin of victory to the amazing people who supported me. They were the ones putting up signs, making phone calls, talking with friends and neighbors, and they got our message out to the voters."
Johnson added that she fully intends to follow through on the promises she made to voters during the election campaign.
"The new mission of the Klickitat County Assessor's Office will be to provide fair and uniform assessments, make the information on the assessment process easy to understand and readily available, and respond to all taxpayers in a courteous and timely manner," Johnson explained. "And I am going to hang a copy of the Washington Constitution on the wall. It is an honor and a big responsibility that I have to the citizens of this county, to make sure the Assessor's Office is run in the best interests of the taxpayers. This will now be a guiding force in my life as I serve as Assessor."
In area races for the Washington Legislature, the current 15th Legislative District team will remain intact. In the state senate race, incumbent Republican Jim Honeyford ran unopposed for a new four-year term, while incumbent state representatives David Taylor and Bruce Chandler, both Republicans, also won handily in their respective bids for fresh two-year terms. Taylor had 62 percent of the vote to beat Thomas Silva (D), while Chandler ended up with more than 63 percent in his win over Paul Spencer, a Democrat from Stevenson.
Despite his lopsided win, Chandler said he thought he could have performed at a stronger level.
"I wish we'd done a little better," Chandler said on Friday. "It was an intense election, with a lot more independent voters. There were an awful lot of close elections. It certainly says people are skeptical of both parties, and they're going to be watching both Democrats and Republicans under the microscope."
Because state representatives serve two year terms, Chandler conceded that he already needs to have one eye on the 2012 election cycle. However, he said he doesn't object to that routine.
"I don't mind running every two years. I think it's good to have a regular job evaluation," Chandler said. "I'm really grateful for all the support I've had throughout the district. I look forward to working with constituents in every community."
Both the Washington House of Representatives and the Washington State Senate will remain controlled by the Democratic Party, although the margins will not be as great as they were in 2010.
Chandler said he anticipates a very challenging legislative session coming up next year.
"It's probably one of the most important sessions the state will have had in a long time," Chandler explained. "Primarily we need to get the economy going, create jobs, and balance the budget. I'm excited about the coming session. It's an opportunity to chart a new future on what Washington will be over the next decade."
Chandler pointed out that he believes voters made one very clear point in statewide elections this year.
"Look at the ballot issues -- people voted against all tax increase measures, even in Seattle," Chandler noted. "They want more value for their tax money; I think that's a clear message."
One incumbent who did not prevail was Skamania County Commissioner Jamie Tolfree, a Democrat. In that race, her Republican challenger, Bob Anderson, took nearly 54 percent of the vote, ending Tolfree's tenure at one four-year term.
Tolfree said she was disappointed in the outcome.
"Shocked, stunned, astonished are words I've heard from supporters," Tolfree said. "In the last month of the campaign, when my opponent had basically stopped campaigning, I thought my chances had improved. I was operating under the belief that the person who works hardest will come out well in the end. Obviously not."
Tolfree said she thought the national Republican tide played a large role in her defeat.
"The Republican trend was a big piece of it," Tolfree commented.
Tolfree said she was uncertain what her future will bring now that her political career has been cut short, adding that she appreciates the expressions of support from constituents.
"I'm keeping my eyes out and will start looking for other opportunities after my term ends in December," she said. "I'm kind of in limbo now -- figuring out how to be most effective the next six weeks. I would like to thank all of the folks who have offered words of encouragement and support over the past six months. I am grateful for their consideration and kindness."