Politics & Government

Candidate who withdrew from port race still could win. His $115,000 is gone, though.

Under fire for posting controversial tweets, Jim Jensen on Wednesday withdrew his candidacy for Port of Tacoma commissioner. He has spent $115,000 of his own money on the race. June 5, 2017
Under fire for posting controversial tweets, Jim Jensen on Wednesday withdrew his candidacy for Port of Tacoma commissioner. He has spent $115,000 of his own money on the race. June 5, 2017 phaley@thenewstribune.com

Commercial real estate broker Jim Jensen said Wednesday he was dropping out of the race for Position 1 on the Port of Tacoma Commission after screenshots of offensive posts from his deleted Twitter account made their way around the internet.

But Jensen still could win a seat on the commission.

The 37-year-old political novice’s name will appear on the primary ballot in August because the last day for candidates to formally withdraw was May 22, according to the Pierce County Auditor’s Office.

Only a court order could remove Jensen’s name from the ballot now, and that’s unlikely to happen.

Two other men, retired Superior Court Judge John McCarthy and former port security director Eric Holdeman, also are running for the seat. The top two vote-getters in the primary advance to the general election in November. If Jensen is one of them, his name will be on that ballot as well, according to the Auditor’s Office.

If Jensen makes it to November and wins then but chooses not to serve, the other members of the commission would appoint a replacement, county Auditor Julie Anderson said Thursday.

Jensen did not return a voicemail or text message Thursday asking what he would do if he won the seat. Since Wednesday, his campaign website and Facebook page have been taken down.

The Fox Island resident was at the center of a social-media storm this week after tweets he used to make offensive comments toward African-Americans, women and the poor were recirculated on the internet.

In a statement to The News Tribune on Wednesday, Jensen apologized for the tweets and said he was withdrawing from the race.

Jensen’s run first piqued interest after he donated $115,000 of his own money to his campaign. He later raised another $30,000 or so from other sources.

Political consultants and observers from both Pierce and King counties said that $115,000 figure was a huge amount of money for a local office, especially for a low-visibility one like port commission. As of Thursday, his campaign had the seventh-highest fund-raising sum of any local race in the state, according to records collected by the state Public Disclosure Commission, which tracks campaign spending.

Jensen had spent about $33,000 of his campaign money as of Thursday, and his campaign owed another $2,722.50 to a sign-making company, according to those records.

What happens to the remainder of the money remains to be seen, but Jensen will not be able to just redeposit his contribution back into his personal accounts, according to the disclosure commission.

If Jensen had loaned his campaign the $115,000 instead of donating it outright, he’d be eligible to get a maximum of $6,000 back, according to campaign-finance rules.

Now, the remaining money would become what’s considered “surplus” after the primary, and Jensen could only use it in certain ways, according to the PDC.

Some of his options include:

▪ Refunding his contributors (except himself).

▪ Reimbursing himself for verifiable earnings lost because of the campaign, though those claims have to be specific and well-documented.

▪ Making unlimited contributions to a political party or caucus political committee.

▪ Depositing the money into the state’s general fund.

▪ Making a donation to a charity registered with the Secretary of State.

He also could hold onto the cash if he wants to run for office in the future.

Jensen’s campaign has not filed any paperwork formally withdrawing his candidacy or shutting down his campaign, the PDC said. If and when he does that, he’ll have to stop accepting contributions but will be able to continue paying campaign expenses.

His withdrawal from the race also wouldn’t necessarily be permanent. He could choose to rescind it.

Jensen said in an interview last month that he contributed so much of his own cash to the campaign because he wanted to show he had skin in the game, and because he needed to overcome the name recognition of his opponents.

The Twitter controversy was not the first to dog him.

He generated controversy earlier this week after telling The News Tribune for a previous story that he opposed construction of a controversial methanol plant at the Port of Tacoma.

But in an April speech to donors he told a different story, lamenting that those plans fell though and calling it a missed opportunity.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud

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