Valenzuela, Beehler will face off

Democratic incumbent Karen Valenzuela and Republican challenger Patrick Beehler are headed to the November general election in the Thurston County Commissioner District No. 3 race.

Valenzuela polled 44.5 percent of the 10,219 votes counted election night, followed by Beehler at 36.5 percent

The odd man out is Dan Venable, 57, a conservative Democratic hopeful, Thurston County native and environmental contractor with no previous political experience. He polled 18.6 percent of the vote.

The top two vote-getters earn a spot on the November general election ballot for a countywide race. Tuesday’s primary votes were limited to District 3, which encompasses western Thurston County, including west Olympia, Cooper Point and Tumwater.

“I’m looking forward to the general election race,” Valenzuela, 59, said. “We’re supported by completely different interest groups.”

Valenzuela predicted her environmental and growth management priorities will play well in the countywide race.

The former Tumwater city council member was appointed to the commission post in January 2009 by Gov. Chris Gregoire, filling the unexpired term of fellow Democrat Bob Macleod, who resigned for medical reasons.

She has spent the first eight months helping manage a major county budget crisis, clashing with Sheriff Dan Kimball over the Sheriff’s Office budget, and promoting county policies to preserve prairie lands, return Capitol Lake to a Deschutes River estuary and combat climate change.

Beehler, a 40-year resident of Thurston County, is a professional surveyor with a history of civic and business-minded activities, including work as a former chairman of the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce and as a 10-year member of the Thurston County Historic Commission.

In his first run for political office, Beehler, 64, has strong backing from the Olympia Master Builders and has been critical of Valenzuela’s handling of the county budget and rural land preservation tactics.

“I feel real good about it,” Beehler said of his second-place finish. “I look forward to campaigning in the rest of the county.”

Venable threw his support behind Beehler, saying the Republican challenger’s political positions are closely aligned with his.

“I think Valenzuela’s dealings with the sheriff’s department are out to lunch,” Venable said.

In the weeks leading up to the Tuesday primary vote, Beehler raised $24,238 and spent $18,502, according to state Public Disclosure Commission records. Valenzuela raised $22,306 and spent $13,280 while Venable raised $5,960 and spent $5,111.

The commission seat pays $105,276 a year and will be up for election again in 2010 for a four-year term.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444