Kevin Van De Wege, left, and Steve Tharinger, both of Sequim, will represent the 24th District in the state House of Representatives. Sequim Gazette photo by Amanda Winters
by AMANDA WINTERS
On Monday night, Nov. 8, Kevin Van De Wege and Steve Tharinger shook hands, congratulating each other on their almost-certain success in winning the election for the 24th District's two state representative positions.
In January, the two Sequimites will start the 2011 legislative session together, representing the 24th District.
Democrat Van De Wege, 36, a Clallam County Fire District 3 firefighter/paramedic, was winning his bid for re-election to Position 1 by 7,496 votes over Port Angeles Republican Dan Gase, 57, on Tuesday, Nov. 9.
Gase, a real estate managing broker for Coldwell Banker Uptown Realty, already had conceded the election to Van De Wege on Saturday, Nov. 6.
"Although disappointed in the final outcome, I am thankful for the opportunity to run for public office, to live the American dream, to give the voters of our district a choice between two distinct viewpoints of government," he said in a prepared statement.
Sequim Republican Jim McEntire also conceded the election to his Democratic opponent Saturday, Nov. 6.
McEntire, 60, a Port of Port Angeles commissioner, was losing to Steve Tharinger, 61, of Sequim, by 2,730 votes on Nov. 9.
In a prepared statement McEntire congratulated Tharinger, a Clallam County commissioner, and reiterated his position on the need for state politicians to be fiscally responsible.
"The financial difficulties facing state government are large and difficult," he said. "Through our constitutional initiative process, the people have again spoken with crystal clarity, that they expect those who represent us in Olympia to make the same hard choices about spending priorities that they themselves have to make in their business and family budgets."
Losing the county, winning the district
Before the Nov. 8 ballot counts were announced, both Van De Wege and Tharinger were losing Clallam County.
Van De Wege, who now is winning the county by 337 votes, said he wasn't too surprised and attributed it to the out-of-county campaigning he did during the election season.
"One of the weaknesses of our (Tharinger and his) opponents was making inroads out of the county," he said. "Steve and I both worked the whole peninsula and the district."
Van De Wege lost Clallam County in 2006.
Tharinger said he was surprised by the amount by which he lost the county, but his focus was districtwide.
Additionally, the early votes showed a Republican wave, he said.
In Clallam County, McEntire led Tharinger by 1,193 votes on Nov. 9.
Ready to be a team
Van De Wege said he and Tharinger have worked together and already think of each other as teammates.
Though Tharinger is 25 years older, Tharinger said Van De Wege has the seniority and his position on the natural resources, general government and technology committees will help him know which committees he should cover in the interest of the district.
Both said they are committed to finding funding for the Carlsborg sewer project and other projects that would create jobs and benefit the district.
Van De Wege said the most difficult issue in the coming session is the state budget.
"We know we have to get it all through cuts," he said.
Tharinger said he agreed with Gov. Christine Gregoire's statement that voters made it clear they want the budget balanced by cuts, not by new revenue.
"This session is going to be difficult because there are no sacred cows," he said. "People will be working very hard to hold on to their piece and choosing what to cut will be tough."
Clallam County prosecutor:
Deb Kelly, Republican, 16,648
Larry Freedman, Democrat, 15,388
Clallam County commissioner District 3
Howard V. (Mike) Doherty Jr., Democrat, 16,494
Robin V. Poole, Republican, 15,426
Clallam County director of Community Development
Sheila Roark Miller 15,264
John Miller 13,294
Clallam County treasurer
Selinda Barkhuis 14,318
Judith Scott 13,868