BELLINGHAM - Challenger Kelli Linville held a 51-49 percent lead over incumbent Mayor Dan Pike after the first round of vote-counting Tuesday, Nov. 8, but Pike said he's "reasonably confident" he will win once the count is complete.
Linville also expressed cautious optimism.
"When things are as close as this, you never say for sure," she said. "I'm feeling good about where I am right now."
An updated ballot count is expected Wednesday afternoon. Results won't be certified until Nov. 29.
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Pike said it's tough for a new mayor to live up to the hopes of people who voted him into office originally.
"They pin their hopes on somebody else, whoever somebody else is," Pike said.
At the same time, Linville entered the race as an already well-known political figure, Pike said.
Pike also noted that the unpopularity of the red-light cameras he had endorsed probably hurt him. A citizen advisory vote on the cameras, on the same ballot, was running 65 percent against their use.
The 2011 mayor's race was a showdown that featured two compelling candidates. Pike rallied state and local environmental groups to his cause by his outspoken opposition to the Gateway Pacific coal and cargo terminal project. Linville had wide name recognition as well as broad support owing to years of service as a Democratic state representative from the 42nd District. The two emerged from the August primary with Pike holding a 28-vote lead over Linville.
Pike and his environmental supporters repeatedly accused Linville of fence-sitting on the emotionally charged Gateway Pacific issue. That angered Linville and her supporters, who accused Pike himself of doing an about-face on the issue after he realized how upset many city residents were about the coal trains that would rumble through town on their way to the pier at Cherry Point.
Linville said her own position had never changed: She opposed the export of coal and the construction of a single-purpose coal port.
There were other issues that the coal train uproar often seemed to overshadow:
Financial stewardship: Pike noted that the city's bond rating had improved on his watch. Linville complained that the city spent millions in cash reserves to cover revenue shortfalls.
Waterfront redevelopment: Pike said he had pushed the Port of Bellingham to agree to a strategy that would be better for downtown Bellingham, while Linville said his actions had slowed the pace of progress. She also criticized the city's acquisition of a polluted piece of waterfront land that once was home to a wood treatment plant.
Chuckanut Ridge: Pike said the city's purchase of the 82-acre wooded south side site ended decades of strife over its potential development, but Linville said his administration should not have completed the $8.2 million purchase without a fresh appraisal and review by the parks and Greenways commissions.