Wednesday ballot count will likely settle Kitsap County Commission race

From left, County Commission candidates Rob Gelder and Chris Tibbs. - File photos
From left, County Commission candidates Rob Gelder and Chris Tibbs.
— image credit: File photos

POULSBO — The County Commission District 1 race isn’t over yet.

With 25,000 ballots left to count, Rob Gelder leads with 22,545 votes to Chris Tibbs’ 21,061 — a difference of 3.37 percent.

“That race is too close,” Kitsap County Elections Manager Dolores Gilmore said Wednesday. “If you are behind by over 5 percentage points, that’s difficult to overcome. The wider the percentage, the less (a shift in results) happens.”

Candidates are waiting for a clearer picture of the results today in the County Commission race and in the Port Orchard mayor’s race, where Tim Mathes leads incumbent Lary Coppola by one vote.

Gilmore said 10,000 ballots were delivered to dropbox locations countywide Tuesday. Ballots received by mail late Tuesday and Wednesday will be counted as well, with updated results posted at 5 p.m.

Thursday, Gilmore expects most ballots, including those postmarked Tuesday, will have been received.

Tibbs was jubilant over the results. He made a congratulatory call to Gelder Tuesday night, but Wednesday morning remained “cautiously optimistic” that remaining ballots could swing the election his way.

“If you look at the entire election, people have the impression that we need change, we need to shake things up,” he said. He said Prop. 1, the failed tax levy for veterans and homeless services, is an example that the public didn’t trust the county to spend money the way it said it would.

“I don’t think there’s a shift in ideology in Kitsap County. I think people want change,” Tibbs said.

Abby Burlingame, scheduler/media relations of Friends to Elect Chris Tibbs Commissioner, said the race proved to her that the impression that Kitsap is a Democratic-leaning county is incorrect; District 2 Commissioner Charlotte Garrido, a Democrat, was elected by a 1,656-vote margin over Republican Mathes in 2008.

“I think we’re kind of a purple county, something in between (red and blue),” she said. She noted that state Rep. Jan Angel and Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent, both Republicans, have served on the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners. “I don’t believe we’re as Democratic a county as people believe … If you come up with a candidate who is independent-minded, people will go to that candidate.”

Gelder was confident Wednesday that his lead would hold.

“I’m happy I’m on the upside,” he said. “As the county counts the remainder of the ballots, generally trends hold. Today’s count will be the big piece of it.”

Gelder said the results, although close, are validation of the work he has done in the seven months since he was appointed to succeed Steve Bauer, who resigned.

“There’s only so much you can do in seven months,” he said. “Are there ways we can improve? Most definitely. And we’ve already started on that path of being more efficient.”



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