Mid-Columbia legislators look to be re-elected

BY MICHELLE DUPLER AND TY BEAVERNovember 7, 2012 

Mid-Columbia legislators appeared well on their way to re-election according to preliminary voting results Tuesday.

Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, had a wide lead over challenger Richard Reuther, a Richland Democrat, in the race for Position 2 in the 8th Legislative District. Haler had 29,671 votes, or 73 percent to Reuther's 11,229 votes, or 27 percent.

His seatmate Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, also was leading his Democratic challenger Jay Clough of West Richland for Position 1. Klippert had 26,018 votes, or 63 percent, to Clough's 15,167 votes, or 37 percent.

The 8th District includes Richland, West Richland and most of Kennewick.

Haler said he was surprised by the high percentage of votes he received as of Tuesday, but was honored voters chose to send him back to Olympia for another term.

"I'm very happy that they liked my leadership and my leadership style and re-elected me to lead on their behalf and their issues in this district," Haler told the Herald. "I'm almost at a loss for words right now."

Klippert said the preliminary numbers looked good and that it has always been a pleasure to serve the district and he has always sought to be open and transparent in his dealings.

"I'm honored they've renewed their faith in me," he said.

This was Clough's second defeat in seeking elected office. U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings of Pasco beat Clough to hold onto his seat in Congress in 2010.

Clough and Klippert emphasized their desire to support business and the economy during their campaigns, but also said they'd work to address the state's budget woes.

Klippert highlighted his past attempts to work across the aisle in Olympia while Clough said that as a member of the majority party, he'd be able to get more accomplished for his constituents.

In the 16th Legislative District, which includes Walla Walla and Columbia counties and parts of Benton and Franklin counties, Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, and Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, also were leading their challengers.

Hewitt had 19,457 votes, or 71 percent, to Waitsburg Democrat Scott Nettles' 7,973 votes, or 29 percent.

"I think I've served the district well and really worked hard and done outreach," Hewitt told the Herald. "I'm just happy they're going to send me back for four more years."

As the state Senate's Republican leader, Hewitt said his top priorities in the next session will be balancing the state budget, and figuring out how to fully fund education, help businesses succeed and grow and how to implement the requirements of federal health care reform.

Walsh received criticism from some of her conservative constituents for her support of the same-sex marriage law passed by the Legislature earlier this year, and that appeared to be upheld by voters in preliminary results Tuesday.

Her opponent, fellow Republican Mary Ruth Edwards of Prosser, said she ran against Walsh because of Walsh's vote on same-sex marriage, but voters in the four counties making up the 16th District appeared to be returning Walsh to office despite a majority of those same voters rejection the same-sex marriage referendum on the ballot.

As of Tuesday, Walsh had 14,485 votes, or 57 percent, to Edwards' 11,075, or 43 percent.

"I commend the voters for that," Walsh said. "I hope they recognize that I do a good job for this district on a lot of issues. It was my hope voters would not use this one issue to gauge their support. I know I lost the support of many voters."

In Benton County, results include ballots processed through Monday, plus some turned in Election Day.

Daily updates are planned as more ballots are counted. Results will be certified Nov. 27.

The county has about 97,700 registered voters, and turnout was hovering around 60 percent based on returns released Tuesday.

Benton Auditor Brenda Chilton predicts turnout will hit 85 to 90 percent once all the ballots are processed. County voter turnout in the last presidential election was 85 percent.

In Franklin County, results include ballots processed through Monday.

Daily updates are planned as more ballots are counted.

The county has about 29,700 registered voters, with turnout hovering around 53 percent based on returns released Tuesday.

Franklin Auditor Matt Beaton estimates turnout will hit 81 percent by the time all ballots are processed. County voter turnout in the last presidential election was about 85 percent.

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