Chapman picks 'R' over 'I' after top-two court ruling

By Jim Casey, Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES, WA - 3/18/08 — Clallam County Commissioner Mike Chapman will keep the "R" after his name when he runs for re-election in the primary balloting that will end Aug. 19.

Chapman, of Port Angeles, announced his choice Tuesday as soon as he'd heard the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld Washington's top-two primary election system.

In this scheme, the two candidates who attract the most votes — regardless of party affiliation — advance to the general election.

Chapman backed the top-two system and boycotted his party's caucuses Feb. 9, although he voted in the Feb. 19 primary.

"I'm going to run as a Republican and take my chances," he said.

Yet even identifying himself as a Republican, Chapman will be somewhat of a man without a party.

Shunned both Fordes
The Clallam County GOP Executive Committee effectively suspended him from the organization for two years — and from its financial, volunteer and advertising support — for endorsing incumbent Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, for re-election last year.

Chapman didn't only shun Bob Forde, Tharinger's Republican opponent last year.

He'd declined to endorse Sue Forde, Bob Forde's wife, when she ran unsuccessfully against Tharinger in 2003.

Both the Fordes once were active Libertarians, although not when they ran for county commissioner seats.

Chapman's actions weren't without other consequences, intended or not.

Democrats nominated no one to run against him in 2004, and sources close to Democratic party leaders say they are likely to repeat the favor.

Keep "team" together?
Neither Tharinger nor his Democratic colleague, Commissioner Mike Doherty of Port Angeles, are eager to have a Democrat replace Chapman.

Tharinger, in fact, repeatedly said the commissioners made "a good team" in his campaign speeches against Bob Forde last year.

Forde countered that if the three agreed, two of them should go home.

Thus, if Democrats run no one against Chapman, only Republicans would battle for ballots next summer.

The top two vote-getters would compete in the election that will close next Nov. 4.

"If another candidate or candidates present themselves, the party would support them," said Sue Forde, now the chair of the Clallam County GOP.

Republicans v Republican
She said nothing prevents Chapman from identifying himself as a Republican, but that he had violated the local party's bylaws by endorsing anyone but the GOP nominee.

The results, spelled out in a letter Chapman received Feb. 22, are that he:
·  Cannot attend party meetings, caucuses, conventions and fund-raisers.
·  Cannot receive the county party's help with campaign signs, sign locations, canvassing or polling.
·  Cannot use the party's mailing list or its bulk-mailing permit.

No one yet has bid for any party's support to run for county commissioner, although courthouse observers have mentioned Republican stalwarts Terry Roth and Fred DeFrang, both former Clallam County sheriff's officers.

Reporter Jim Casey can be reached at 360-417-3538 or at
Last modified: March 18. 2008 9:00PM



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