Polls will be open Sept. 17

Although ballots are coming back a little slower than usual, Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn still expects a primary election turnout of around 45 percent countywide, a bit higher on Bainbridge.

“We’re at about 20 percent now,” Flynn said Thursday, “but I think back-to-school and 9-11 memorials have slowed things down.”

Though billed as a primary election, the voting that concludes Tuesday is the second and final try this year for the Bainbridge park district’s two-year maintenance and operations levy. In February, Bainbridge voters approved the levy by a hefty margin, but it was a shade less than the required 60 percent “supermajority.”

Voters shouldn’t be misled by the ballot title, which describes the measure as an “excess” levy, park district officials say.

“There’s nothing excess about it,” park board chairman Ken DeWitt said in a written statement. “State law requires out ballot request to be classified as an ‘excess levy’ because it must be approved by the voters.”

Under state law, so-called “junior” taxing districts like the park district lack the inherent power to levy taxes themselves, and must seek voter approval for their maintenance and operations budgets. And they can only go to the voters twice a year.

The Bainbridge school board endorsed the park levy this week.

Contrary to what some think, the district is not a city department, DeWitt said. And unlike school districts, the parks department doesn’t receive any operating money from the state or federal government, DeWitt said.

“A ‘yes’ vote means parks and the pools stay open on January 1, 2003. A ‘no’ vote means we prepare to close parks and pools,” he said in his statement.

The other issue to be decided in the Tuesday primary is the race for county treasurer, which drew two Democrats and no Republicans. The winner in the primary race pitting former Poulsbo treasurer Paulette Alvarado against former Kitsap United Way chair Barbara Stephenson will be the only name on the November general-election ballot, facing only write-in opponents.

Two statewide races for seats on the nine-member Washington Supreme Court could be decided Tuesday if one candidate receives over 50 percent of the vote. Otherwise, the top two finishers will face each other in November.

In one race, incumbent Charles Johnson is given some chance of reaching the 50 percent level against challengers Pam Loginsky of Port Orchard, an assistant attorney general, and former candidate Doug Schafer of Tacoma, a controversial figure who faces disbarment charges for having disclosed confidential client information even though that information was used to unseat an allegedly corrupt judge.

In the other race, without an incumbent, well-regarded Seattle trial judge Michael Spearman has drawn the support of most of the organized bar. He faces significant opposition from conservative firebrand Jim Johnson, whose client roster includes Tim Eyman, the Building Industry Association of Washington and the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, and who has drawn his support almost exclusively from Republican activists. Also in the race are assistant attorney general Mary Fairhurst and solo practitioner Stan Morse.

While the other races affecting Bainbridge Island won’t be decided Tuesday, that doesn’t mean the results will be meaningless.

Historically, “beauty contest” primary races pitting an unopposed Democrat against an unopposed Republican have fairly closely mirrored the general election results. So the candidates pay attention, sometimes using the primary outcomes as guideposts for new strategies or renewed efforts.

“Sometimes an incumbent might feel pretty confident, then the results of the primary has the effect of spurring the campaign to be a little more vigorous,” said Kitsap County auditor Karen Flynn.

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