With 2,000 ballots left to count as of Friday, Nov. 13, two-term Lacey City Councilman Michael Steadman has conceded to Independent incumbent Gary Edwards in the race for Thurston County Commissioner District No. 2. Steadman led Edwards on election night, Nov. 3, by 5,560 votes, but over the past week the lead had dwindled with every vote tally since then.
Edwards now leads Steadman 50.57 percent to 49 percent and is ahead by 2,391 votes. A total of 152,490 Thurston County residents have so far voted in the election, which the county will certify on Nov. 24. The Secretary of State will certify general election results on Dec. 3. The county’s general election race attracted an astounding 82.36 percent of registered voters.
Reached by phone on Friday, Nov. 13, Steadman was gracious in defeat, noting he had called Edwards on Thursday morning to concede.
“Hats off to Gary,” Steadman said on Friday afternoon, noting that Edwards had made up a lot of votes in just days since election night. “I’m very proud of our campaign and our team and our platform, but I don’t know what else we could have done to make up the difference, because we pulled out all the stops. But I know I would have done a lot of great things for every single business in our county had I won.”
Steadman doesn’t have much time to wallow in defeat, because it won’t be long before he begins gearing up for the next Lacey City Council race that concludes about a year from now.
“I’ll go from one campaign to the next, and hopefully I’ll get the head nod from the people of Lacey when I run again for city council,” Steadman said. “I’ll always be a part of the community and try to improve the quality of people’s lives.”
Reached at home on Friday, Edwards said he and Steadman had spoken cordially, though briefly
“I told him that he had run a good campaign, and I congratulated him on it,” Edwards said. “I knew that he had his hands full, but that’s what makes this country great when people are willing to stand up and run for office.”
Speculating Friday on his second term, Edwards said common sense had to rule the day if anything positive in government was to be accomplished.
“Common sense is often lost in the mix in government, and it’s a big piece for gaining public trust,” he said. “The public perceives trust in their public officials if they think they are doing the right thing, being open about it, and that common sense prevails. The bureaucratic process isn’t always pretty, nor is the outcome.”
Earlier in the week before Steadman’s concession, Edwards discussed the evolving commissioner race and the vote count that was quickly edging his way: “I do well in rural America, and it seems that the latest votes are coming in from there, and they generally vote more conservative,” he said.
Edwards also said his surge could have been attributed to a higher power.
“It also could be divine intervention,” he said good naturedly. “The good Lord has been in charge of my whole life,” adding the Lord may still have a job for him to do. “I’m not a preacher, but I am a believer.”
As he diagnosed his second term as commissioner, Edwards foresaw challenges regarding property rights and regulatory reform.
“It’s not going to be an easy run, because I will be in the minority,” he said. “My focus will be to keep the public informed if things are to be imposed that are lacking in common sense.”
Edwards also anticipated potential skirmishes with other government officials over what he calls the deterioration of downtown Olympia.
“Over the past 10 years, they have ruined Olympia and let the homeless situation get out of hand while allowing deviant lifestyles to prevail in the downtown core,” he said. “I think regular folks are sickened, and I talk to people in the business community who are beside themselves and can’t get any help from city officials.”
And finally: “I’m not against helping people, but I think they need to be willing to help themselves, too,” he concluded.
Edwards, a longtime Thurston County sheriff who is completing his first term as commissioner, easily beat Steadman in the Aug. 4 commissioner primary race, 57 percent to 42 percent, but only voters in District 2, the easternmost of the county’s three districts, were eligible to cast ballots in the primary. Voters from all three districts cast ballots in the general election.
Edwards, 73, was elected to the Thurston County Board of Commissioners in 2016 and before that served 37 years in law enforcement — 20 of those as Thurston County sheriff. He served in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1968 and is a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Edwards is no stranger to District 2, having graduated from Yelm High School before attending universities out of state and graduating from the National FBI Academy.
Steadman, 50, was elected to the Lacey City Council in 2013 and re-elected in 2017. He graduated from Milpitas High School in California in 1989 and was in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves from 1991 to 1999. He currently owns Steadman Properties, a commercial leasing company in Lacey.