By Steve Wehrly, Journal reporter
With less than six weeks until San Juan County elects a new three-member county council, all six remaining candidates are hitting the campaign trail and hitting the telephones to raise campaign cash.
Lisa Byers of Orcas Island has had the most success raising funds, banking almost $27,000 from 137 contributors. She has received maximum $900 contributions from three Orcas islanders, Janet Alderton, Richard Steinhardt and Andrew Wickstrand.
Other notable contributors include former Washington Department of Corrections chief Chase Riveland and film producer/directors Richard and Laura Donner. Byers has spent just over $17,500 of her cache.
Her opponent, current Councilman Rick Hughes, has raised about $7,700, as of March 13, from 17 contributors. Hughes, owner and operator of Rays Pharmacy and General Store in Eastsound, has spent just under $4,500.
However, the Hughes campaign has yet to report donations or expenses from the month of February, and in the first two weeks of March as well, according to Lori Andersen of the Washington state Public Disclosure Commission.
The revamped council, and the April 23 elections, were ushered in by the revisions to the county charter proposed by the Charter Review Commission and approved by the voters in November. Those revisions, among other changes to the charter, returned the County Council to three members elected countywide from "residency districts" comprising San Juan, Orcas and Lopez islands and their respective nearby smaller islands.
Nominated in a February, 2013, primary were Lovel Pratt and Bob Jarman from San Juan Island, and Byers and Hughes. The only two candidates vying in the Lopez residency district race, Jamie Stephens and Brian McClerren, advanced to the April 23 general election without the need of a primary.
Hughes, Stephens and Jarman are current incumbents on the present six-member council; Pratt is a former councilwoman who was defeated by Jarman in a 2012 council race; Byers is executive director of OPAL Community Land Trust on Orcas; McClerren is a Lopez resident making his first run for public office.
The countywide campaigning creates challenges for all candidates, who have been busy island-hopping as they strive to "get their message" out to all voters. One of those challenges involves raising money to fund those campaigns.
Stephens has raised nearly $18,000 from 71 contributors and spent about $8,500, as of March 15, according to PDC records. His largest contributions have come from Peter and Elizabeth Currie of Lopez, who have contributed $900 each, which is the per-election maximum under Washington state law.
McClerren, Stephens' opponent, has raised $2,060 from 10 sources, including $250 from Lopez farmer Nick Jones, $400 from Peter Groves of San Juan Island and $500 each from Cimarron Enterprises of Anacortes and Cimarron's owner, the Sizemore Beneficial Protection Trust of Mount Vernon.
Pratt, a former county councilwoman, has banked almost $22,000 from 154 donors from all the major islands. Notable contributors include Byers' contributors Alderton and Steinhardt, who have each contributed the maximum $900 for both primary and general elections, and Waldron resident, attorney William Appel, who has made two $500 contributions. Pratt has so far spent just over $16,000 of her bankroll.
Pratt's opponent, council incumbent Bob Jarman has raised more than $8,000 from 17 contributors and spent $4,000. Keith and Sandy Guard each contributed $625 in the primary and $275 for the general election. Sam Buck and Kenneth Nilsson of San Juan Island have each contributed $500.
Although candidates continue to raise funds as they crisscross the county in search of votes, it appears for now that no candidate will either raise or spend the $40,000 to $50,000 that some observers thought might be necessary to be competitive.