Jon Cooke of Quilcene, elected as chair of the Jefferson County Republican Party Dec. 8, has set his sights on unseating Democrat Jefferson County Commissioner Kathleen Kler in 2018.
Cooke, 58, took the reins from chair Steve Crosby at a meeting attended by 25 people. That was a significant turnout compared to a reorganization meeting two years ago when seven people attended, Cooke said.
By comparison, more than 300 people turned out Dec. 4 for a reorganization of the Jefferson County Democratic party, where there were contested elections control. Brinnon attorney Linda Callahan eased out Bruce Cowan, retired schoolteacher from Port Townsend, by a 15-13 vote.
There was no controversy in the vote for GOP chair.
“We congratulated Steve. He did a great job. He wants to move on. We didn’t want him to,” Cooke said.
“Steve and I went to the reorganization meeting two years ago. I got [elected] committeeman, and he got the chair. And this year we decided to have me as the chair because he wanted to officially retire,” Cooke said. “So I’ve got some big shoes to fill.”
Cooke works for Jefferson County as a custodian at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and county jail in Port Hadlock. He moved to Jefferson County nine years ago from Silverdale. He also works as a substitute teacher for the Central Kitsap School District and is a wrestling coach for Central Kitsap Middle School.
The first order of business for the new chair is to host an inauguration party Jan. 20 for President-elect Donald Trump, most likely in Port Townsend.
After that, Cooke said, he’s hoping to get more people out to be active in politics.
“We have pockets that voted more Republican than Democrat,” he said. “I’m hoping we can get out and talk to people one on one and knock on doors and get them rallied that way.”
In the 2016 general election, the Republican presidential ticket garnered 6,037 votes in Jefferson County, the Democratic ticket received 12,656 votes, the Libertarian candidates drew 746 votes, and the Green Party slate received 706 votes.
Cooke said he sees the base of the Republican party in Brinnon, Quilcene, Gardiner, Chimacum and Port Hadlock.
A longer-range goal would be to put forth a candidate to run against Kler, the Quilcene resident serving her first term as county commissioner from District 3.
“I’m hoping to get a good candidate to run for the seat that’s out there,” the newly minted GOP chair said.
“We have commissioners who just passed the budget with no dissent. I think there’s a lot of people who would dissent, and I think we should have a dissenting voice on the BOCC [board of county commissioners] that has different views on raising taxes and spending more,” he said.
Cooke said he thinks the county budget needs to be trimmed and that raising property taxes is not what should be done.
“Check the budget to be sure it’s trimmed down where it needs to be,” he said.
The next meeting of the Jefferson County GOP is 6 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 12 at the Jefferson County Library in Port Hadlock.