Initial tallies show incumbent Democrat Karen Valenzuela holding a lead over Republican Pat Beehler in the race for the District 3 seat on the Thurston County commission.
Valenzuela, who defeated Beehler in 2009 after being appointed to the position, spent election night at the Lacey Community Center alongside other county Democratic candidates.
The Tumwater City Council member-turned-commissioner said initial numbers have her feeling pretty confident that she’ll be re-elected. “We’re thinking it looks awfully, awfully good right now,” she said.
Valenzuela added that the results underscore how voters identify with her goals of reining in urban sprawl, curbing spending and highlighting environmental protection. Beehler, a former land surveyor and small-business owner, watched results come in at a Republican rally at the Governor Hotel in downtown Olympia.
Beehler said he would not concede until later in the week after all the votes were counted, but admitted it would be ‘real hard’ to make up the difference. “(I) just couldn’t convince them otherwise that change was needed in the county,” he said.
After losing by 7.5 percent in the primary, Beehler had hoped for strong rural turnout to close the gap. He lost to Valenzuela in the 2009 election by nearly 11 percent. Beehler had said this election was a chance to break up a commission made up of Democrats that, in his mind, don’t accurately reflect residents’ values and opinions.
Rural Thurston County will become a central focus for the commission as it updates its critical-areas ordinance.
Valenzuela has said she will push for the strongest environmental protection when it comes to developing critical areas; Beehler has said balance between environmentalism and personal property rights must be part of any update.
The commission has its hands full working through the draft phase of the 2011 budget, including addressing options to use the county’s satellite jail, which sits empty. Budget issues also are expected in 2012 and beyond.