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Political landscape unchanged

Local voters marked familiar names on their ballots Tuesday, maintaining the party balance in 23rd District legislative and Kitsap County commission seats, in unofficial final returns.

Phil Rockefeller (D-Bainbridge Island) trounced Bremerton real estate agent Doug Kitchens, earning almost 59 percent of the vote to ascend to District 23’s Washington State Senate seat, left open with the retirement of Democrat Betti Sheldon.

Voters gave Rockefeller’s old House seat to Democrat Sherry Appleton, a former Poulsbo councilwoman, who outpaced another realtor, Frank Mahaffay, with almost 56 percent of the vote.

Incumbent Poulsbo Republican Beverly Woods held off a challenge by Terry Ducheane in the other 23rd District House race, earning almost 57 percent. The race was marked by a large fundraising gap, with the Democrat gathering under $1,400 compared to the incumbent’s hefty $124,000 campaign chest, according to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.

With two of the three Kitsap County Commission seats up, voters gave Poulsbo’s Chris Endresen a third term. The Democrat earned 52 percent of the vote to fend off Scott Henden, a North Kitsap electrical contractor and businessman, for the second straight election.

Jan Angel, a South Kitsap Republican, held her seat against Charlotte Garrido with just over 53 percent of the vote.

In a non-binding advisory measure, Kitsap voters urged county fire officials not to ban all fireworks on the Fourth of July. The measure was opposed by almost 58 percent.

Kitsap voters mirrored their peers statewide in giving overwhelming endorsements to U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, both of whom were elected to new terms.

Kitsap voters also preferred the losing Kerry/Edwards presidential ticket by over 51 percent.

The county was split over the sharply contested gubernatorial race between Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi. As of Friday afternoon, Gregoire maintained a slight edge as outstanding ballots were tallied.

Almost 100,000 votes were cast in the county, swelling turnout to almost 70 percent.

Rockefeller said he was amazed at Kitsap County’s rush to the polls and thanked Bainbridge residents for his decisive victory.

“I’m grateful for the support from voters who turned out in a big way and will allow me to carry on,” he said, pledging dependable representation in the Senate.

“I’ll work on what I’ve always worked on,” he said, including environmental protection, fiscal responsibility and improvements to public schools and colleges. In particular, Rockefeller expressed interest in transforming Olympic College into a four-year institution, allowing residents to “get a degree in our area.”

Endresen also thanked island voters for her victory.

“Bainbridge played a big part,” she said. Endresen said she’s looking forward to boosting transportation in the area with ferry service in Kingston and highway improvements on Highway 305.

The Democratic commissioner’s win wasn’t easy. Voters were swamped with anonymous mailings, windshield flyers and roadside signs attacking Endresen.

“I was very fortunate that voters were smart enough to know that people doing things without putting their names on it might not be true,” she said.

Exit polls found that voters got their smarts from newspaper and magazine articles, according to results gathered by Tessaract, an island-based information systems design company that tested new polling technology Tuesday.

Surveying almost 60 voters at various polling places, results showed 67 percent of islanders relied on print news sources to make decisions on the elections. Candidate debates came in second, with 65 percent, and television, radio and websites filled out the rest of the list.

Islanders ranked the environment as their number one election issue, followed closely by the economy. Residents said party affiliation least influenced their decisions out of seven categories.

Busy day

Eager faces peered through windows at polling places at the break of Election Day, signaling a flurry of sign waving, door belling and ballot casting that lasted throughout the day.

“We had a line into the parking lot at a quarter to seven this moring,” said elections inspector Bob Johnson while overseeing the polls at the American Legion Hall. “We had over 100 votes in the first hour. It’s been steady ever since. I think it’s a record.”

John Flodin, 23, took his time casting a ballot at the hall. He drove for hours Tuesday morning just to vote in his home district.

“It’s one of the most important things I’ve done all year,” he said. “I live in Olympia and made the trek all the way up here to vote. And it’s worth it. Throughout this country’s existence so many people had to go the extra mile to get the freedoms we take for granted. So, for me driving two and a half hours up here to vote is not really anything.”

Kailani Koenig-Muenster and Robyn Ellis, both juniors at Bainbridge High, spent most of the day braving rain and cold to wave Democratic party signs.

“We can’t vote, but we do what we can to take part,” Ellis said.

Local Democrats fielded more than 100 door knockers and 50 sign wavers on Tuesday to urge voter participation.

Bainbridge Republicans also pitched in for a successful Election Day turnout. They dialed up supporters, canvassed ferry commuters and watched over polling places along with their Democratic counterparts.

Even downtown shops got into the elections spirit. Many displayed signs encouraging residents to vote. Esther’s Fabric Store sported “Smart Women Vote” signs on its windows.

“For our democracy to work everyone has to vote,” said owner Jennifer Rhoads. “Women are often the least represented, and that’s not right.”

Paper Products displayed a “VOTE” sign, measuring five feet tall and 15 feet wide.

“It’s a bit edgier than putting a product in the window,” said employee and sign maker Adam Lucke. “But you have a duty when you’re a downtown business to encourage community involvement. Just because we’re a business doesn’t mean we should remain politically silent.”

As polling places shut down at 8 p.m., party activists gathered around televisions to watch results roll in from the East Coast. Despite her party’s eventual win, Bernadette Scheffler, co-chair of the Bush/Cheney campaign for Kitsap County, didn’t know what to expect as she eyed TVs at her party’s Ericksen Avenue office.

“I remember the last time and I’m not going to go through the motions,” she said. “I’m willing to wait. Well, I don’t know if I’ll wait for Hawaii.”

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