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Voters go with Kordonowy

Twin themes that emerged from Tuesday’s elections were “work hard, think green.”

The winners of the mayoral and three city council races did that. They campaigned virtually full time. And they established themselves early on as environmental candidates, allowing them to carry their campaign to the Bainbridge business community.

“The people who you might say were running against the status quo were well organized and did a good job,” said retiring council member Merrill Robison.

In several races, familiarity and credentials supplemented the candidates’ messages.

In the mayoral race, long-time community leader and volunteer Darlene Kordonowy defeated businesswoman and park board chair Chris Llewellyn by a wide margin, earning 64 percent of the vote.

In the race for a council seat to represent the island’s north end, planning commission chair, businesswoman and environmental activist Deborah Vancil overwhelmed architect and first-time candidate Tom Hofferber, 5,582 votes to 1,726, a 76-24 percent margin.

But in the other two council races, both for seats in the island’s central ward, name recognition seemed to be of little benefit, as political newcomers knocked off better-known faces.

In the position 5 race, retired social worker Deborah Vann ousted incumbent Jim Llewellyn, a builder, 4,392 votes to 3,341, or 57-43 percent.

And in the position 4, retired military and airline pilot Bill Knobloch defeated builder Bill Nelson, who was making his second try for a council seat. Knobloch garnered 4,166 votes to 3,677 for Nelson, a 53-47 percent edge.

“I’d be more disappointed if I thought voters had used more conventional criteria to make their decisions,” Llewellyn said Tuesday evening as returns rolled in, “but I think marital status became an issue on an island that I thought was too sophisticated for that.”

Vann said the issue that resonated with voters Tuesday was growth and development.

“People aren’t pleased about what is happening on the island, including me,” she said. “I think it’s pretty clear where Jim Llewellyn stands on that issue, and where I stand.”

In other races, school board incumbent Susan Sivitz downed Peter Harris, 62--37 percent.

In the race for fire commissioner, James “Jim” Johnson had slim lead over Scott Gray through Friday’s absentee count; the race may not be resolved until final certification.

Johnson outpolled Gray in the primary election by just six votes.

Voter participation was relatively high – about 64 percent of the island’s 14,200 registered voters cast ballots, Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn said. That compared to about 52 percent countywide.

The big winner was open space.

By a 2-1 margin, island voters authorized the city to issue up to $8 million in bonds to preserve open space and farmland.

The effect of the open-space levy on the races was unclear, as most candidates proclaimed their support for the measure in campaign appearances.

At the same time, some said, the issue may have further mobilized the island’s environmental vote.

“The organizations supporting the winning candidates were also very supportive of that measure,” Robison said. “To some extent, the candidates may have ridden the coattails of the measure.”

Although winners of the four city offices shared a number of mutual endorsements, Kordonowy said there was not a co-ordinated campaign.

“At the very beginning, there was some talk about whether we should run as a team,” she said, “but we made a conscious decision not to do that, not to have joint events.”

On election night, Kordonowy credited her success to a “broad base of support.” Financial filings with the state Public Disclosure Commission showed that support manifested itself in fund-raising; Kordonowy raked in $25,000 in campaign contributions, more than twice her opponent.

One common thread among the winning candidates was the level of attention they paid to the downtown business community.

Vann and Knobloch, in particular, pounded the pavement, talking to local business owners who might have been expected to favor Llewellyn and Nelson.

Vann distributed a questionnaire asking businesses about their frustrations with city hall. Knobloch promised to open an office on Ericksen Avenue, to be available to the business community.

Those efforts did not go unnoticed.

“I can’t go into Bill Nelson’s business and discuss city business – that would be inappropriate,” said one downtown merchant, applauding Knobloch’s plan to open an office. “And Deborah Vann did come in and talk to me, asking me what I think.”

Another attribute the winning candidates shared was time; most are at least semi-retired.

By contrast, the three unsuccessful council candidates are all employed full time. And Chris Llewellyn essentially took a leave of absence from her business to run for mayor, saying during the campaign that the effort imposed a significant economic hardship.

Responses to the election from island officeholders varied.

Councilman Norm Wooldridge observed that candidates who used yard signs, as opposed to “a few (larger) strategically placed signs,” tended to fare poorly at the polls.

“I think that Bainbridge Islanders have over the years made it clear that they do not appreciate yard signs because of the clutter they create,” Wooldridge said.

When he and his wife visited Mercer Island recently, Wooldridge said, they noticed a proliferation of signs in public rights of way.

“Without a little reminder, future elections on Bainbridge could see more of these,” he said. “Noting the apparent results may help for that future.”

Mayor Dwight Sutton described the winners as “by and large, a good slate of folks.”

He predicted that the next council would focus more on land use and growth issues. At the same time, he said, the newcomers would realize that the goals and promises of a campaign tend to be slowed or blunted once in office.

“That’s probably a good thing,” Sutton said. “Government is fairly ponderous in the way it moves.”

Robison said that while the new council will have a strong environmental bias, that focus evens out over time.

“It’s sort of like the tides,” Robison said. “It comes in, it goes out, but overall, it’s a good balance.”

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