BELLINGHAM - John Blethen will be competing against incumbent Steve Smith for a spot on the Bellingham School Board in the November general election, according to early results from the Tuesday, Aug. 6, primary.
Smith received the most votes, taking more than 53 percent, while Blethen garnered nearly 29 percent of the vote, according to the first ballot count by the Whatcom County Auditor's Office.
The other challenger in the race, Hue Beattie, received nearly 18 percent of the vote and will not move forward. The top two vote-getters in the primary move on to the Nov. 5 ballot.
Both Beattie and Blethen were motivated to run by the board's vote this spring to close Larrabee Elementary School. The two challengers also were critical of the $160 million school bond set for the November ballot.
"I hope John Blethen wins because he's the most qualified," Beattie said.
Blethen said he thinks there is work to do to get his message out and gain more ground before November.
"The primary message is about small schools, and I think we need to look really closely at this bond issue," Blethen said.
The bond will pay to rebuild Sehome High School and Happy Valley Elementary, as well as build a new Options High School and renovate the district office.
Smith said he was excited to be moving on to the general election, and that he had expected that Beattie and Blethen would split voters with their similar focus on small schools.
"I hope we can start moving beyond talking just about Larrabee because there are a lot of issues," Smith said. "I hope we can move it to a higher discussion and start talking about all the kids in the district."
Blethen said he also wants to focus on more academic diversity for students and getting the district to make closer connections with the city in its planning.
The next ballot count will be available Wednesday afternoon.
Reach ZOE FRALEY at email@example.com or call 756-2803.