BELLINGHAM - With about 1,000 votes left to count, incumbent Mike McAuley has a 340-vote lead over Ken Bell in the race for the District 2 seat on the Port of Bellingham commission.
While McAuley's margin is small, Bell would need to get about 67 percent of the remaining votes to overtake McAuley. While that is unlikely, it is possible that the final count could make the McAuley-Bell race close enough to trigger an automatic recount, which state law mandates when the margin is less than one half of 1 percent.
As of Friday, Nov. 8, McAuley had 50.28 percent of votes cast, with 49.72 percent for Bell.
McAuley, nearing the end of his first four-year term on the port commission, said he expects to survive to serve another term.
"I'm confident we'll get the win, but if we have a recount, that's fair," McAuley said.
McAuley got on the commission four years ago with a win over incumbent Doug Smith.
Bell did not immediately respond to a request for comment after results were updated Friday.
In the District 2 race, Dan Robbins increased his margin over Renata Kowalczyk to 1,407 votes, clinching his victory. Robbins will replace Commissioner Scott Walker, who is stepping down after 22 years on the commission.
McAuley had strong backing from local Democrats in the nonpartisan election, while Robbins was endorsed by Republicans. With Democrat-backed candidates sweeping the four County Council races on the ballot, Robbins is the only successful Republican-backed countywide candidate.
The port district owns and manages Bellingham International Airport, marinas in Blaine and Bellingham, a deep-water shipping terminal and a variety of waterfront real estate. It has about 100 employees.
In the next four years, the port is expected to move ahead in earnest on long-awaited redevelopment of waterfront real estate left dormant when Georgia-Pacific Corp. suspended Bellingham operations.