Assessing Halvorson’s loss

September 4th, 2008 by Ken

In 2003, Jon Halvorson was considering a run for Thurston County Commissioner, when incumbent commissioner Democrat Diane Oberquell decided to retire.   She had announced that she was considering such a move and Halvorson was gearing up to run for the seat, when she made the actual announcement.

Halvorson felt himself a competent replacement.  He had served on the Lacey City Council, including a period as the city’s mayor.  He received high marks for his work particularly, when Lacey was shocked by a gang related murder.  His efforts to bring the community together and overcome the stigma were lauded.

So, he felt in a fine position to replace Oberquell.  The fact that Halvorson had been active in the Democratic party also led to his feelings that this was the time.

Then Oberquell changed her mind, and decided to serve another four-year term.  But, she announced, this would be the last term.   Halvorson was disappointed, but didn’t want to challenge the incumbent.  He’d wait his turn and look forward to four years in the future.

He did many things during the four-year waiting period.  He served as chair of the Public Facility District, a seat with some name recognition and a little power.  He worked with the North Thurston Public Schools serving on the North Thurston Educational Foundation.  And he continued to belong to the Lacey Chamber of Commerce, an organization he joined because he also worked as a DJ, playing music at parties.  He provided the music for my 50th birthday bash.

Then, as the time drew near for the election, Oberquell confirmed that she would not run again, and Halvorson began seeking endorsements, support and money.  It was assumed by many, that he would have an easy time of it.

But, fate stepped in the way, by a person named Sandra Romero.  Romero had served several years as state representative and had been active and involved in the Democratic party.  When Oberquell announced that she wouldn’t seek re-election, Romero decided that this was the place for her.

She moved into a little place in Lacey on Chamber’s Lake, and announced that she would seek election to the county commission seat being vacated by Oberquell – – the same seat  Halvorson had eyed for several years.

Both candidates worked hard, organized and gained supporters.  Romero drew the endorsement of the county Democratic party.  She gained the endorsement of Brendan Williams and Karen Fraser, both big names in the party.

Halvorson, meanwhile, got the endorsement of several top names himself – – County Commissioners Oberquell and  Bob MacLeod, as well as most county elected officials and city elected officials.

It looked like an even match.

Then Halvorson got the endorsement of the Olympia Master Builders.  It didn’t take long for Romero supporters to jump on the idea that Halvorson was being bought by the developers and builders.  Romero supporters started a letter writing campaign.   The perception among the voters was that Halvorson was in the pockets of the local builders organization.

The Top Two Primary, which at first had seemed Halvorson’s salvation, because the top two candidates, independent of party, would advance to the General Election, gave him a great shot.   All he had to do was finish in the top two.  It looked almost certain that Romero and Halvorson would be the two going further.

The Republican candidate Robin Edmondson was little known and ran a very light race.

But, when the final votes were counted Edmondson had 32 percent, Romero had 30 percent and Halvorson had 26 percent.  He was out. 

The race is now down to a Democrat and a Republican.  There is very little doubt who will win countywide in Thurston County.

Halvorson told his supporters that he was too conservative for the Democrats and too liberal for the Republicans.  He said “We fought the good fight and we  just came up short”

What’s Halvorson going to do now.  Chances are, he’ll be asked to endorse Romero, and chances are he will.  After all, he is a Democrat.

But five years of work and planning are now gone and Halvorson has to be asking himself, “What next?” 

Posted in History, Local Politics, The Real News

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