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Voters stick with familiar faces, voices

Incumbent Darlene Kordonowy reacts to early election returns that showed her with 61 percent of the vote Tuesday evening, and a certain second term as Bainbridge Island mayor. Kordonowy bested challenger Nezam Tooloee, a first-term city councilman; she and her supporters gathered at a Winslow diner to celebrate the campaign’s end and monitor election results throughout the evening. - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Incumbent Darlene Kordonowy reacts to early election returns that showed her with 61 percent of the vote Tuesday evening, and a certain second term as Bainbridge Island mayor. Kordonowy bested challenger Nezam Tooloee, a first-term city councilman; she and her supporters gathered at a Winslow diner to celebrate the campaign’s end and monitor election results throughout the evening.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

Mayor Kordonowy earns a second term, as do two incumbent councilors

It was a return to form Tuesday night as election results streamed in, carrying Mayor Darlene Kordonowy to a second term and handing out victories to incumbent city councilors and two new candidates who espouse “traditional island values.”

That’s how incoming councilman Christopher Snow read it, at least.

“It’s interesting to see that the race was traditional in its outcome,” said Snow, who claimed Christine Rolfes’ seat in an uncontested race. “The values and interests represented in successful candidates of the past were the winners in this race, too. There’s not a great enthusiasm for changing course.”

Kordo­nowy drew 62 percent of the vote, besting challenger Nezam Tooloee, a first-term councilman, in unofficial final returns.

In council races, incumbents Bill Knobloch and Debbie Vancil also won second terms.

Knobloch defeated challenger John Doerschuk, a real estate manager, with 64 percent of the vote. Vancil bested Frank Renna Jr., a retired utilities manager, with 57 percent.

Former urban planner and property appraiser Kjell Stoknes earned 70 percent against Doug Smith, a former sales director, to secure Deborah Vann’s vacant central ward council seat.

Snow coasted unopposed to represent the south end.

“There was a strong resistance to change considering the community agenda,” said Knobloch, who discussed the election between well-wishers door-belling his home Thursday. “As I’ve said throughout the campaign, we’re at a critical moment in our history.

“Because of growth and needs in infrastructure and the decisions we need to make about these issues, voters were reluctant to change horses midstream.”

For Stoknes, the message voters sent was that “they don’t want to watch over the council and be watchdogs. They want reliable decisions that protect their interests.

“The majority care about the quality of life on this island, whether it be protecting rural Bainbridge, our critical areas, minimizing traffic’s impacts and (development) in downtown Winslow,” he said. “They don’t want Bainbridge over-developed and they want it to be a place they can still enjoy.”

Vann was happy to hand Stoknes her council seat.

“I love Kjell,” she said. He’s great. He’s the main reason I decided I didn’t want to run because I knew he was running.”

Vann is confident Stoknes will continue championing issues dear to her.

“That’s the sense I get,” she said. “He cares about the environment and (doesn’t support) the whole re-do of the Critical Areas Ordinance, which has been a disaster.”

One of the authors of many of the ordinance’s re-writes, Councilman Nezam Tooloee, wasn’t successful in his bid to unseat Kordonowy. But then, he wasn’t betting on it.

“I didn’t expect to win,” Tooloee said as results came in Tuesday evening. “The odds were in Darlene’s favor, they’ve always been in her favor. Even before she ran for mayor the first time, she had the best civic resume in town with 20 plus years of involvement and more friends than God.”

Rallying a number of allies that rival the divine must mean she has a lot in common with a lot of island voters.

“She has an intense history on the island,” said Snow. “She and Debbie Vancil and Bill are seen by most on the island as being on the right side of the issues.”

One issue that appeared to be on the wrong side was the effort to remove the state ferry maintenance yard from Eagle Harbor. All three candidates – Tooloee, Doerschuk and Smith – that highlighted the yard’s relocation were unsuccessful in their campaigns.

“The vote shows there’s not a referendum on the maintenance facility,” said Smith, who campaigned with little defining him from Stoknes apart from his position on the ferry yard. “I think you can see that because both John (Doerschuk) and I lost.”

The battle’s lost but the war continues, pledged Doerschuk.

“It’s still there,” he said. “It hasn’t been addressed yet. Some of the smoke needs to clear.”

When it does, he and Smith are planning presentations and discussions about the yard’s future.

The CAO’s update also appeared to have impacted the election. Vancil blamed a “difficult campaign” on charges by a local environmental group that she was behind changes aimed at eroding protections.

“The people that raised that had no basis,” Vancil said. “The results give me confidence in our community’s ability to sort fact from fiction.”

Her challenger, Renna, initially dropped out of the race, was a relative newcomer to the island and lives part-time in New Jersey. Still, his pro-environment campaign drew votes away from Vancil, netting him 43 percent.

Renna, vacationing in Italy, could not be reached for comment. His showing against a well-known and longtime island resident shows that recent transplants also reflect the island’s traditional values, Snow said.

“You can see it in some of the candidates and in the way people voted – new residents have become islanders,” he said.

During the campaign, Knobloch surmised that the failure of the school district’s technology levy revealed a dramatic change in island demographics over the last five years.

Fewer families and young people reside here while well-heeled older residents are moving in. But they either come thinking like islanders or something else seeps in, Snow agreed.

“Maybe it’s the water,” he said. “But whoever says ‘place’ doesn’t have an impact on people’s thinking is wrong.”

* * * * *

How you voted

Mayor Darlene Kordonowy

4,854 62%

Nezam Tooloee

2,896 37%

City Council, North Ward

Debbie Vancil

3,928 57%

Frank Renna

2,983 43%

City Council, Central Ward

Bill Knobloch

4,254 64%

John Doerschuk

2,338 35%

City Council, Central Ward

Kjell Stoknes

4,394 70%

Doug Smith

1,841 29%

City Council, South Ward

Christopher Snow

(unopposed)

5,280 99%

Park board

Kirk Robinson

3,690 59%

Mary Fearey

2,516 40%

Fire board

David Coatsworth

3,766 65%

Michael Adams

1,985 34%

School board

Mike Foley (unopposed)

5,141 99%

Mary Curtis (unopposed)

5,141 99%

Source: unofficial final returns from the Kitsap Elections Division through Thursday. Because of write-ins, some race results do not add up to 100 percent.

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