The favorites in the two Port of Olympia races appeared to advance to the general election, according to early results from Tuesday’s primary, although District 3 candidate Bob Jones didn’t trail fellow candidate Jerry Farmer by much.
In the District 1 race, Joe Downing, a senior financial examiner with the state Department of Financial Institutions, was the top vote-getter, attracting 43.6 percent of the vote. Port of Olympia commissioner George Barner followed with about 37 percent. Joseph Treacy Kreger, an executive chef at St. Andrew’s House on Hood Canal, appeared to be out of the race with 18.5 percent of the vote.
In the District 3 race, E.J. Zita, a longtime professor of physics and renewable energy at The Evergreen State College was on her way to the general election with 43.2 percent of the vote, followed by radio station co-owner Jerry Farmer at 25.8 percent.
But Bob Jones, a retired Army man, wasn’t completely out of the picture, attracting 23.4 percent.
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A fourth candidate in the race, Larry Goodman, dropped out earlier due to health concerns, but not early enough that he wasn’t included on the ballot. Goodman picked up nearly 7 percent of the vote, according to the first-round primary results.
The District 1 incumbent is George Barner, 73, who is seeking a third term on the Port Commission. Before joining the port in 2008, he was probably best known for his role as a Thurston County commissioner from 1977 to 1992.
In District 3, there is no incumbent because Sue Gunn resigned earlier this year, and appointee Michelle Morris is not running.
The District 1 race between Barner and Downing, 61, now shapes up as a contest between port supporters, with Downing likely exploiting his financial background, while Barner touts his experience as a two-term commissioner.
The District 3 race couldn’t be more stark: Zita, 55, likely represents the popular choice among those who supported former commissioner Gunn, wanting someone to cast a more critical eye on the port’s operations. Farmer, 62, meanwhile, likely is to be more bullish on the port’s current operations.
Both Zita and Farmer were recently asked questions about a revenue shortfall at the marine terminal.
Here’s how they responded:
Zita said the downturn at the marine terminal speaks to the need for better planning. “We need to take a hard look at how decisions are made at the port,” she said.
The port relies on shipping for income, but the marine terminal is a risky business that is not a reliable source of income, she said.
By involving citizens and local experts, the port can make good decisions about the right investments and the right business opportunities to pursue, and avoid the mistake of counting on making millions from fracking sand and log exports, Zita said.
“We can do that with a better planning process,” she said.
Farmer said the downturn in revenue at the marine terminal needs to be handled like any other business: When revenue drops off, you don’t go out of business, he said. Instead, you make adjustments and don’t abandon your core business.
“I’m perfectly comfortable continuing to have the marine terminal because it’s important to keep bringing dollars into our community,” he said.
But the port needs to diversify and seek out other cargoes, Farmer said. He also praised the port staff decision to defer some capital spending, but took issue with port critics who say the port should have seen this coming.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” he said.