Cathey, McClanahan in tight race to face Kmet

TUMWATER – Two council members will vie in November to be mayor of Tumwater, though it wasn’t clear from early results if Pete Kmet will face off with Neil McClanahan or Joan Cathey.

In early results, Kmet received 802 votes, or about 37 percent of the total. McClanahan had 605 votes, or about 28 percent, and Cathey had 565 votes for 26 percent.

Kmet, who has been on the council for 18 years, said, “I think it’s a tremendous honor to have the opportunity to run for mayor of Tumwater. What I find gratifying about it is the recognition of all the hard work I’ve done over the years.”

McClanahan, first elected to the council in 2004, said that he was hopeful after the early returns that he could continue his run for mayor, but that he was not taking it for granted.

“I appreciate this opportunity very much. It’s been an incredible and exciting campaign,” he said. “Given the low turnout, it’s anybody’s game after this.”

He said that he thought coverage of his driving while intoxicated arrest in May had an effect on his support. McClanahan said he is seeking treatment for alcoholism.

“I’m quite certain it did, absolutely. I think it also speaks to the fact that people recognize that I am so much more than my disease and people are willing to give me a chance to offer what I can do for this community,” he said.

Cathey could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The three council members received more than 91 percent of the votes in early returns.

The two other challengers are newcomers to politics, Dave Raatz, who received 115 votes, or 5 percent, and Justin Kover, who received 71 votes, or 3 percent.

Raatz said he feels that he already won some victories by campaigning.

“It made the candidates get out and talk to people, which they haven’t had to do in Tumwater for a very long time. The citizens’ points were brought to the forefront,” he said. “It puts our sitting officials on notice, that private citizens are willing to come forward and challenge them, and say that you better do a better job with the people.”

Kover said he was surprised by his vote totals in early returns, and disappointed by the city’s 20 percent voter turnout.

However, he said he plans to stay involved city politics, and that the campaign has made him more aware of Tumwater’s budget challenges. He was critical of the use of public funds subsidizing the Tumwater Valley Golf Course and the lack of staffing of the city’s second fire station.

Those issues “have motivated me to be even more involved. We’re spending our sewer money on a golf course. That’s wrong,” he said.

Whoever becomes the mayor will face issues such as appointing a successor to retiring city administrator Doug Baker, financial challenges, and the ongoing question of redevelopment at the former Olympia Brewery.

In December, Mayor Ralph Osgood announced that he would not seek another term.

The mayor’s term is four years and pays $17,400 a year. It is a nonpartisan position.

Venice Buhain: 360-754-5445