Huntington, Stokes square off again

Port of Bremerton commissioner candidates Mary Ann Huntington and Larry Stokes exchanged blows during Thursday morning’s Eggs and Issues candidate forum sponsored by the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce at the Family Pancake House on Kitsap Way.

Voters will choose between the incumbent Huntington and the former port commissioner Stokes in the Nov. 6 general election.

“I want to take this opportunity to brag on our staff,” Huntington said during her opening remarks. “Because of their hard work we get all the glory.”

Stokes said he was a port commissioner for 10 years and served one unexpired term and one full term before calling it quits.

“I’m running for commissioner for one reason and one reason only and that’s to represent the taxpayer,” he said.

The current port commissioners voted for a 150 percent tax increase without the voters’ approval, he said.

“I’m not here to blame this lady,” he said in reference to Huntington. “I’m running against three people.”

The port commissioners approved an Industrial Development District property tax levy increase in February to fund the Bremerton marina expansion project.

Huntington defended that decision and said if she had to do it again, she would.

“In 1969 the port voted one in to put the infrastructure in the industrial park and that left one more,” she said.

The tax increase approved in February expires in six years and after that, the port can’t do any more, Huntington said.

Huntington’s answer didn’t satisfy many in the packed room as Gene Hart twice asked both candidates, “How would you feel if I reached into your wallet or your purse and took some money?”

“I would think you stole it,” Stokes said.

“I feel the same way,” Huntington said in her second response to the query.

Bremerton property owner Louis Soriano asked Huntington about the port’s offices in the Norm Dicks Government Center, which the port has the option to purchase for about $500,000.

“Can you tell me why you would enter into the financial responsibility of having space in downtown Bremerton when you have such wonderful facilities at the airport?” Soriano asked.

Huntington responded that the port took advantage of the opportunity to get into the ground floor of the government center and it leases the majority of the space to the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority.

“We have a very small office in there that we occupy daily,” she said, adding that the space is used for one-on-one meetings with the port commissioners but no official port meetings are held there.

“I don’t know why you would have to have space in there,” Stokes said. “I don’t see it.”

Huntington also expressed her support for the Bremerton marina project, which is expected to bring in $10 million to the area.

“The marina is a great asset and will bring in a ton of money,” she said. “The kind of people it will bring in will spend between $130 and $170 per day. It’s no different than having a hotel and having people in those beds.”

Port Orchard’s marina doesn’t bring in that type of revenue, so why do port officials believe Bremerton’s will, Stokes asked.

“I don’t see how the marina saved Port Orchard,” he said.

In their closing remarks, Stokes and Huntington delivered contrasting messages to those in attendance.

“I’m not going for the job for the money,” Stokes said. “I’m going to represent the taxpayer.”

If elected Stokes said he will work to reduce the commissioners’ salaries to a reasonable amount.

“I’m proud of my 18 years,” Huntington said. “We have done so much. I love what I do and I’m working hard for you.”

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