Democrat draws opposition

Maverick Democratic Sen. Tim Sheldon has drawn another election opponent - write-in hopeful Justin Stang, who is worried about a biomass-to-energy project proposed in Mason County.

Sheldon, who plays a double role as a Mason County commissioner, already faces a Republican challenge from self-styled tea-party “grandma” Nancy Williams of Belfair for his Senate seat.

Stang filed as a Democrat. He said he held off during the official filing period during early June, “waiting to see if a candidate I felt was representative of myself and my community was going to run. When it became apparent there wasn’t going to be that candidate, a lot of people said they would write my name in.”

Stang, 31, said he has lived in the 35th Legislative District for five years, works as an ice-cream maker at Olympic Mountain Ice Cream, and sings in a band called Sideways Reign. His concern about how Mason County officials are handling the biomass project was “a major factor” in his decision to run.

Stang appeared to be under no illusion that a write-in campaign will be easy. One of the most notable success stories in Washington was in 1994, when conservative activist Linda Smith won the Republican primary then captured the 3rd Congressional District seat held at the time by Rep. Jolene Unsoeld.

Last year, former Newsweek journalist George Wehrfritz won as a write-in for mayor of Cathlamet, according to Brian Zylstra, spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of State.

Zylstra added that it is “rare’’ for a write-in campaign to succeed.

In fact, elections officials say any votes Stang receives won’t count in the record unless the total number of write-ins and “under votes” are enough to affect the primary outcome. An “under vote” is when no vote is cast on a ballot for a specific office.

Under the state’s “top two” primary, the two candidates with the most votes move on regardless of party affiliation.

Stang said he expects to register the campaign for fundraising and to put out mailers that boost his cause ahead of the Aug. 17 primary.

“I think he’s probably a nice young man with good intentions,” Sheldon said this week, when contacted about the new challenger.

“But I think he would do much better if he had filed for office. His name will not appear.”

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 bshannon@theolympian.com