Mike Chapman versus Marcia Kelbon
State Representative Mike Chapman (left) is running for the Senate seat currently held by Kevin Van De Wege, a fellow Democrat. Marcia Kelbon (right) is also running for the Republicans. (Campaign publicity photos)

Last sum­mer, Wash­ing­ton State Sen­a­tor Kevin Van De Wege announced he’d seek high­er office rather than run­ning for reelec­tion to the Sen­ate. That has cre­at­ed an open seat in a pre­dom­i­nant­ly rur­al dis­trict that remark­ably remains all-Demo­c­ra­t­ic despite the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s ascen­dan­cy through­out rur­al Washington. 

See­ing an oppor­tu­ni­ty to step into a more promi­nent role, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mike Chap­man, one of Van De Wege’s House coun­ter­parts, has thrown his hat in the ring. In state­ments dis­cussing his can­di­da­cy, Chap­man has empha­sized the bipar­ti­san nature of the Sen­ate and expressed his view that his voice will be more impact­ful as a senator.

In a state­ment pub­lished last July, he explained his inter­est in increas­ing the effec­tive­ness of his rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the Olympic Penin­su­la: “This is a crit­i­cal time for the Penin­su­la. We still have work to do to cre­ate jobs, increase eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty, increase pub­lic safe­ty and improve the qual­i­ty of life of every per­son that lives in this beau­ti­ful place.”

Chap­man is cur­rent­ly com­plet­ing his fourth term in the House, hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly served as a local law enforce­ment offi­cer and cus­toms offi­cer before being elect­ed Com­mis­sion­er of Clal­lam Coun­ty. As a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Chap­man has focused on writ­ing eco­log­i­cal and infra­struc­tur­al leg­is­la­tion, spon­sor­ing notable pro­tec­tions for eth­i­cal fish­ing and infra­struc­tur­al projects along the coast. 

His web­site high­lights his accom­plish­ments procur­ing fund­ing for an Elwha Bridge replace­ment project and new roads near Sequim.

Chap­man is a front­line Demo­c­rat who has voiced oppo­si­tion to some of the police reform bills put for­ward by mem­bers of his party. 

“I didn’t sup­port all police reforms. I thought they went too far. I vot­ed for bipar­ti­san solu­tions,” Chap­man said of reforms that arose from anti-law enforce­ment protests that occurred not long after his 2022 reelection. 

On most issues, how­ev­er, he holds views that are in line with oth­er mem­bers of his par­ty. For exam­ple, Chap­man sup­ports envi­ron­men­tal restora­tion projects and thought­ful man­age­ment of log­ging, and has expressed sup­port for tax reforms that sup­port small businesses. 

The 24th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict spans much of the Olympic Penin­su­la and stretch­es east past Sequim, encom­pass­ing Jef­fer­son and Clal­lam coun­ties. The 24th con­tains Sequim and Port Ange­les, but, as men­tioned, it is nonethe­less con­sid­ered a rur­al dis­trict as the major­i­ty of vot­ers are spread out in small com­mu­ni­ties along the coast. It’s worth repeat­ing that it is the last rur­al dis­trict in the state of Wash­ing­ton in which all seats are held by Democrats.

Although Clal­lam Coun­ty has been a tossup in recent elec­tions and the south­ern part of the coun­ty near Grays Har­bor is increas­ing­ly Repub­li­can, Jef­fer­son Coun­ty has been a reli­able lib­er­al strong­hold. This has allowed Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Chap­man and his seat­mate, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Steve Tharinger, to coast to com­fort­able vic­to­ries in recent years. 

In the Sen­ate race this fall, Chap­man seems to be head­ed for anoth­er win. His like­ly oppo­nent, Mar­cia Kel­bon, faces an uphill bat­tle to dis­lodge Chapman’s sup­port among Jef­fer­son and Clal­lam Coun­ty vot­ers. (No oth­er can­di­dates had filed for the seat with the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion as of press time.) 

Kel­bon cur­rent­ly serves as a fire com­mis­sion­er in Quilcene, a small town of about 600 on the Hood Canal. His­tor­i­cal­ly a fish­ing and log­ging town, Quilcene is known for the annu­al Olympic Music Fes­ti­val and one of the largest oys­ter hatch­eries in the world.

Kel­bon worked as a civil­ian engi­neer in the Navy before mov­ing to a biotech firm, where she act­ed as senior exec­u­tive and lawyer. She describes her­self as an inde­pen­dent thinker, and hopes to bridge par­ti­san divides in the Leg­is­la­ture. She declared her can­di­da­cy last year and does not have any cred­i­ble Repub­li­can rivals. 

Kel­bon describes her­self as a “mod­er­ate”, and many of the issues high­light­ed on her cam­paign web­site imply a focus on small government. 

Kel­bon focus­es pri­mar­i­ly on issues that affect rur­al res­i­dents, such as a tire reg­u­la­tion that would impact rur­al motor­cy­clists or fish­ery regulations. 

Kel­bon is cam­paign­ing on her oppo­si­tion to police over­sight and pol­lut­ing pric­ing leg­is­la­tion and her sup­port of crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion of drug use. Kel­bon also says she wants to scale back tax­es and busi­ness oper­a­tion fees, offer­ing famil­iar refrains about putting mon­ey back in the pock­et of mid­dle class fam­i­lies on the Peninsula. 

Although Repub­li­cans have indi­cat­ed they may put effort into the 24th dis­trict, Kel­bon has a long way to go to over­come Chapman’s name recog­ni­tion and reputation. 

Kel­bon ran against Greg Broth­er­ton for a coun­ty seat in 2022, but lacks Chapman’s his­to­ry of run­ning district-wide. 

Chap­man has raised sig­nif­i­cant­ly more than his oppo­nent in each of his past three races, but has donat­ed much of that back to the House Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. Now he’s one of the Wash­ing­ton Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cam­paign’s can­di­dates. So far this year, he has out­raised Kel­bon, and it is not unrea­son­able to con­clude that he will con­tin­ue to. Kel­bon is a com­pe­tent can­di­date and Repub­li­cans have some­times been able to erode the Demo­c­ra­t­ic mar­gin of vic­to­ry over the last decade in the 24th, but at the moment, Democ­rats look favored to hold the dis­tric­t’s Sen­ate seat this November. 

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