While there is no polling machine for small local races in an off-year election, it can be safely assumed that a sitting mayor and former police chief will have the advantage for an open city council seat.

Woodland voters, however, soundly put that assumption to rest Tuesday night, handing newcomer Karl Chapman the preliminary win over Mayor Grover Laseke by 15 percentage points.

“I didn’t think it was going to be easy or anything like that,” Laseke told me last night. “I just offered myself up to people as an alternative, and that’s okay. It just means I get to retire sooner.”

Voters on both sides of the Lewis River were few — most Woodland residents live in Cowlitz County — but Laseke had already called Chapman last night to congratulate him.

“I think he’s a good guy, and I wish him the best,” said Laseke, who has been Woodland’s mayor for four years and was its police chief for eight.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Will Finn will take Laseke’s place in the mayor’s office after running unopposed. He’ll add to a long line of police officers in the mayor’s seat.

Karl Chapman and Grover Laseke

Karl Chapman and Grover Laseke

In all, it was not a great year to be an incumbent in Woodland. The years-long acrimony between the mayor and the council, and between councilors themselves, at last bled onto the ballot.

Chapman earlier this year had looked to get appointed to a seat that went to Mike Benjamin — who himself looked headed for defeat after early results. A race featuring Councilor Susan Humbyrd was tilting her way but was too close to call last night.

And though Laseke wasn’t technically the incumbent for his position, his name recognition should have made a difference under normal conditions. Though it doesn’t seem as though Woodland city government has been operating under “normal conditions” for some time.

No sour grapes from Grover, though.

“It’s a relief to have it behind me now,” he said.

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