Port of Olympia races: Downing leads Barner; Farmer-Zita race too close to call

Port of Olympia District 3 candidate E.J. Zita.
Port of Olympia District 3 candidate E.J. Zita. Rolf Boone

The Port of Olympia Commission races produced two stories Tuesday night: an apparent winner in the District 1 race, and a District 3 race still up for grabs, according to early returns.

District 1 challenger Joe Downing appears to have unseated two-term incumbent George Barner, capturing about 59 percent of the vote to Barner’s 41 percent.

The District 3 race was much closer and may not be decided until later this week as the two candidates — Jerry Farmer and E.J. Zita — were separated by about 600 votes. Farmer captured slightly more than 50 percent Tuesday to Zita’s 48.8 percent.

Both were upbeat, following the announcement of early returns.

“I’m feeling good, considering the low voter turnout,” Farmer said. “I ran a good, clean, strong campaign. Voters did some thinking and that’s OK.”

Zita, too, said she was feeling great. She said she talked to hundreds of voters during the campaign who share her beliefs about transparency, accountability and sustainable development.

“I’m looking forward to the results,” she said.

Zita is a faculty member at The Evergreen State College; Farmer is co-owner of Olympia radio station 94.5-FM KRXY. The current District 3 commissioner, Michelle Morris, was appointed to the seat after former commissioner Sue Gunn resigned earlier this year, but Morris didn’t seek election.

Meanwhile, Downing said Tuesday night’s vote showed that voters want change and a more modern port commissioner.

“I have the right qualifications to move into this position,” said Downing, a senior financial examiner for the state and a former member of the port’s Citizen Advisory Committee.

Barner acknowledged that Tuesday’s vote sent a pretty strong statement in support of Downing. But he also made no indication that he’s done with politics after two terms on the Port Commission.

“I’ll wait until the final count,” he said.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403