Write-in candidate unseats Hildreth as Pacific mayor
By MARK KLAAS
Auburn Reporter Regional Editor
November 30, 2011 · Updated 4:54 PM
As a political outsider and long shot candidate, Cy Sun was realistic about his chances to unseat two-term incumbent Richard Hildreth as mayor of the City of Pacific.
"I didn't expect to win, to be honest with you," said the 81-year-old, a highly decorated Korean War veteran and 12-year resident of Pacific. "As a write-in candidate, I felt like the odds were against me. That being said, I was determined to go the extra mile."
Sun took his campaign to the streets. He estimated he knocked on about 1,000 doors, walking nine hours each day for three weeks leading up to the Nov. 8 general election.
"I wholeheartedly went into (the race)," Sun said. "If I'm going to do something, I'm going to go all out to accomplish what I expect to do.
"Going in as a write-in candidate, it was a hard, uphill struggle."
Sun's determination paid off.
In a rare but not unprecedented result, the unsung Sun – the only officially declared write-in candidate in a bitterly contested race – upset Hildreth.
In the King County Elections' official final results released Tuesday morning, Sun received 470 votes or 40 percent of the ballots cast. Six other write-in candidates received a vote apiece, according to campaign and election officials.
Hildreth received 385 votes, 33 percent of the ballots. Challenger John C. Jones, City Council president, took in 302 votes, 26 percent of the ballots.
The mayoral election attracted 1,205 of 2,591 registered voters in Pacific, 46 percent. Pacific, a small community that sits in the shadow of Auburn, has a population of about 6,000.
"All the write-ins were not for one person, but Cy Sun did get declared the winner of that at today's canvas board certification meeting," said Kim Van Ekstrom, chief communications officer for King County Elections.
In Pierce County, Hildreth received 14 votes to Jones' 12.
Successful write-in campaigns are infrequent but not unheard of, according to Sherril Huff, King County Elections director.
"There are a few instances in which it has happened, but it's very rare," Huff said of city races contested within the county.
"(The Pacific race) was interesting," she added. "What we learned was this election was very controversial. Based upon our communications, things were pretty heated. The circumstances were very unusual."
In a larger-scale election, Huff pointed out, Republican state Sen. Linda Smith, a Clark County lawmaker and populist politician, made history when she became the first candidate ever to win a congressional nomination as a write-in back in 1994.
In Pacific, a write-in candidate had never won a mayoral election, although it had been done in a City Council race, according to Howard Erickson, a retired glass worker who served three terms as Pacific mayor and two years on the City Council.
Erickson, a Hildreth opponent, said it's time for a change in Pacific.
"Cy is not a common man," he said, "he's an extraordinary man."
Sun grew up in Hawaii, enlisted in the U.S. Army, and rose to the rank of colonel while serving in Korea and later, Vietnam. Wounded in battle, he has the many scars of shrapnel.
He eventually moved to the Pacific Northwest, where he raised crops on his northeast Oregon farm for many years before settling in Pacific with his wife. The couple raised a family.
A persistent man who enjoys restoring Volkswagons in his garage in his spare time, Sun understands he has much to learn as he moves into office come January. He says he will bring a managerial role to the city, with his good understanding of accounting, budgets and administration.
"I will bring a casual, congenial approach," he said. "I want the people to know that I am their servant. I want the people to know that I'm there for them. Whatever they want, I want to come to a consensus and help the people."
Sun vows to clean up what he claims to be corruption at City Hall while reinstating and promoting Abraham Lincoln's doctrine: "Government of the people, by the people, for the people."
In victory, Sun has little to say about his opponent or the ugly fall campaign in which the candidates traded accusations.
Hildreth supporters claim Sun benefitted greatly from a smear campaign – anybodybutrich.com – designed to oust the current mayor. Jerry Eck, a local businessman, financially backed the movement.
At the center of the campaign was Hildreth's alleged misuse of a City-issued credit card for personal use and to advance a career in emergency management.
An outside investigation cleared Hildreth of charges in credit-card-gate.
Hildreth says voters have made a mistake in putting a poorly-prepared man in office.
"Although I am disappointed in losing to negative campaigning and the deception of our citizens, I know that as the truth comes out, the public will see the mistake that was made," Hildreth said in a statement. "I pray that mistake does not prove to be fatal to our city."
Hildreth says he has left the City in sound fiscal shape. He is proud of his accomplishments.
Hildreth intends to remain a dedicated instructor and volunteer in the Pacific community, particularly in public education classes in emergency preparedness and emergency management for FEMA.
Sun, meanwhile, is willing to learn quickly in his new role. He says it's time to move ahead.
"I want to win the confidence of the people," he said, "and give them the feeling that this is their city."
Incumbent Joshua Putnam held off challenger Kevin M. Cline in the race for City Council Position 6. Putnam received 503 votes or 50 percent of the vote, while Cline took in 485 votes, 48 percent.
In Pierce County, Putnam had 14 votes to Cline's 13.Contact Auburn Reporter Regional Editor Mark Klaas at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-253-833-0218 (ext 5050).