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HOW THE RACE WAS WON: Bainbridge proves crucial in District 23 race for Hansen

This bubble chart shows the wide difference in votes picked up by each candidate across Bainbridge Island precincts. -
This bubble chart shows the wide difference in votes picked up by each candidate across Bainbridge Island precincts.
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Rep. Drew Hansen used a home field advantage to turn a fellow islander into an outsider in the 23rd District, Position 2 race.

Although Hansen, the Democratic incumbent, and James Olsen, the Republican challenger, both claim the island as home, an analysis of precinct returns by the Review in the Aug. 7 election show Hansen was the overwhelming choice of Bainbridge voters.

Hansen’s impressive showing on Bainbridge Island, where he won every precinct by 40 percentage points or more, was also key to his first-place finish in the 23rd District. Unofficial precinct results show the first-term state lawmaker picked up a third of his overall vote count on Bainbridge Island — an area that has only 20 percent of the 23rd District’s registered voters.

Olsen remained unfazed at Hansen’s hefty lead on the island, and vowed to campaign across the county, regardless of where he found support.

“I’m going to spend a proportional amount of time talking to voters in precinct on Bainbridge Island,” Olsen said. “I’m not necessarily going to go where I have support to begin with.”

Hansen and Olsen will advance to November’s General Election in the race. The latest unofficial vote tally has Hansen with 52 percent of the vote, while Olsen has 40 percent.

Although Hansen failed to get a majority in most of Kitsap County’s precincts — he won outright in only 34 of a total 206  — the incumbent found small pockets of support that buttressed his domination on Bainbridge Island.

The Review’s analysis of unofficial returns through Aug. 7 found that across Kitsap County, Hansen pulled in more than 60 percent of the vote in 24 precincts.

In nine of those precincts, he won big, with more than 70 percent of the vote. All but one of those precincts was on Bainbridge Island.

His strongest support, in terms of the percentage of vote won, came in the precinct of S’Klallam, the precinct made up mostly of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Reservation, where Hansen collected 75 percent of all ballots cast. That said, turnout was just 10 percent in the precinct.

Hansen’s victory was solidified instead by his home turf of Bainbridge Island. The incumbent Democrat won by landslide proportions in all of the island’s 22 precincts, with his margin of victory 40 points or more in each precinct.

Big wins near Rolling Bay

The gap was most pronounced in the precinct of Meadowmeer, a precinct in the center of the island just west of Manitou Beach where Hansen won 74 percent of the vote. Olsen picked up a mere 15 percent of the vote there.

Large margins of victory followed Hansen across Bainbridge. He took the precinct of Rolling Bay with 73 percent of the vote, followed by Eagle Harbor (73), Blue Heron (72), Crystal Springs (71), and Ferncliff, New Brooklyn, Skiff Point (70).

Hansen was buoyed by a large turnout of voters in Azalea (45.3 percent turnout), where he got 69 percent of all ballots cast; Winslow (48.4 percent turnout), where he collected 66 percent of the vote; Crystal Springs (48.4 percent turnout), where he won 71 percent of the vote; and Wing Point (45.7 percent turnout), where he got 65 percent of the vote.

The incumbent’s victories in the precincts of Winslow and Crystal Springs were especially key; each precinct has more than 1,000 voters, and turnout was five points or more above the countywide average.

Familiarity is key

Hansen said he hasn’t studied the precinct results, but he has a theory on why he did so well on the island.

“I probably did well because I live here and a lot of people know me here,” he said. “They’ve seen me on the ferry or at Blackbird with my kids, or in church.”

Hansen lives in the precinct of Liberty, and said he probably did best in Meadowmeer because his mother and father did a lot of doorbelling there.

He noted his campaign also did well in Bremerton.

“I think in part because of my work to expand the Olympic College engineering program so we can train more engineers for the shipyards,” he said.

Olsen said that despite Hansen’s advantage on the island, it isn’t the only voting bloc in the 23rd Legislative District.

“Bainbridge Island only represents a fraction of the Legislative District,” Olsen said. “It likes to think of itself in large fashion.”

Kitsap County has 206 precincts (though half that number are assigned to voters who cast ballots electronically via accessible voting units), and the only other precinct where Hansen rose above 60 percent of the vote was in Augusta, in the Suquamish area of the Port Madison Indian Reservation, where Hansen collected 66 percent of the vote.

Large leads to the west

Hansen also won a majority in nine other precincts across Kitsap County; in the precincts of Bremerton 40, just north of Point Herron, (54 percent); Bremerton 58, south of Tracyton, (53 percent); Olympic, the coastal precinct directly to the south (57 percent); Poulsbo 405, the precinct between Front Street and Highway 305 (52 percent); the two southernmost precincts on the Port Madison Indian Reservation, Totten (52 percent) and Sandy Hook (56 percent); Indianola (58 percent); and the precincts just north of Indianola called Orca (51 percent) and Apple Tree (50.5 percent).

All told, Hansen brought home a majority vote in 33 precincts.

Olsen remains confident

Olsen wasn’t too surprised by the island’s ability to rocket Hansen to the forefront. The Republican candidate attributed Hansen’s success to the amount of money he spent targeting island voters.

As of Aug. 16, Hansen spent $53,427 to Olsen’s $6,791, according to records on file with the Public Disclosure Committee, the state’s watchdog group on campaign finance.

Olsen said that, in the end, he would prove triumphant because of voters’ perceptions on the candidates’ backgrounds.

“My opponent is a Democrat who believes Olympia … needs more government,” Olsen said.

Pledging change, Olsen went on to compare himself to the Republican candidate for vice president.

“I’m a reformer, much like Paul Ryan is on the federal level,” he said.

This distinction from his Democratic rival could have helped Olsen win more than 50 percent of the vote in 20 precincts.

He found his strongest support, percentage-wise, in the precinct of Trident, where he had 63 percent of all ballots cast.

Unfortunately for Olsen, turnout in that precinct, located on Naval Submarine Base Bangor, was the lowest in the county. Just 6 percent of registered voters returned their ballots, despite the earliest primary in state history that was moved forward on the calendar to accommodate military voters.

Olsen also got solid support in the precincts of Meadowdale, just west of Brownsville, with 59 percent of the vote; Luoto, just east of the submarine base (58 percent); Old Frontier, south of the Bangor base (58 percent); Fairview, south of Windy Point (57 percent); and Cambridge, south of University Point (56 percent).

Turnout, again, hurt the Republican candidate. All of Olsen’s strongest precincts except Fairview had turnout lower than the countywide turnout mark of 37 percent in the race.

Review writer Henri Gendreau contributed to this report.

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