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Even though John Rosentangle died in August, his name is still on the ballot as a candidate for commissioner in King County Water District No. 54.

Rosentangle died of an illness on Aug. 12, too late for his name to be removed from the Nov. 5 general election ballot.

District officials are hoping one of two write-in candidates will defeat Rosentangle, who had been unopposed, and save them the cost of a possible special election to replace him.

Two Des Moines residents, Jim Langston and David Gilkey, are write-in candidates.

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Water-district manager Eric Clarke said he hoped one of the write-ins came out the victor. Clarke isn’t sure exactly how much a special election would cost, but everything would be simpler, he said, if someone other than Rosentangle won.

It might also be possible for the two other commissioners of the three-member board to appoint a third, Clarke added. That happened when one commissioner couldn’t complete his term and resigned in 2009. Gilkey was appointed to the unexpired term, then ran again in 2011 and lost.

Rosentangle was a 63-year-old salesman born in Aberdeen. A pleasant man who often stopped by the water district to chat about water rates, he had a homestead in Raymond, Pacific County, and wondered why he paid more for water there than he did in Des Moines, said Clarke.

Eventually, Rosentangle decided to be civic minded and run for the commission. The compensation for the post is $104 a meeting — whether the meeting lasts minutes or all day.

“We don’t get enough people who get involved in the community,” Clarke said. “We elect our officials and step back. I think he was just one of the guys who wanted to get involved and help.”

When Rosentangle died, the others decided to run.

Anyone can write in a name of a candidate, but Kim van Ekstrom, communications officer for King County Elections, said there is an advantage to filing in advance as a write-in candidate. When counting ballots, the write-ins are not counted unless it is likely that they will make a difference in the outcome of the election, she said.

Then they’re counted. To accommodate the vagaries of voters’ handwriting and spelling, ballots are easier to identify as belonging to certain candidates if those candidates have registered in advance, she said.

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