Seth Fleetwood and April Barker were leading in the race for Bellingham mayor, while Tony Larson and Satpal Sidhu were leading for Whatcom County executive, in the first returns for Tuesday’s primary election.
Fleetwood had 29% and Barker had 25% of the vote for Bellingham mayor.
Larson had 39% and Sidhu had 33% of the vote for Whatcom County executive.
They appear headed for the Nov. 5 general election, based on the first count of ballots released about 8 p.m. Tuesday in Washington state’s “top two” primary.
An updated count is planned about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the vote-by-mail election, according to the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office.
In third place for Bellingham mayor was Pinky Vargas and Garrett O’Brien was in fourth, each with 23%. Vargas led O’Brien by one vote.
Fleetwood, a lawyer in private practice, is a former member of the Bellingham City Council and the Whatcom County Council, where he served two terms each.
“No one knew what was going to happen,” Fleetwood said in an interview Tuesday night from Boundary Bay Brewery, where he was celebrating with supporters.
“I’m humbled and thrilled and grateful for all the support I’ve received,” he said. “I’m happy that we’re past this stage in the process.”
Barker, a member of the Bellingham City Council, was at Greene’s Corner with supporters.
“We were so excited that all the hard work has paid off,” she said in an interview Tuesday night.
“All the candidates were wonderful,” she said. “They were four people who care deeply about this community. We’re grateful to all the folks who’ve helped us get this far.”
She said that her campaign’s focus on addressing climate change, closing the wealth gap and ending racial disparity resonated with voters.
In third place for county executive was Karen Burke, with 21%, followed by Jim Boyle, with 7%.
Larson, the leader, was watching election returns with family, friends and neighbors at his Geneva-area home.
“I’m excited and pleased with the results,” Larson said in an interview. “My strategy will be to connect with as many people as I can in Whatcom County and show them what I believe in.”
Sidhu, a member of the Whatcom County Council, was celebrating at the Spice Hut, a business he and his wife own.
“I feel pretty good,” he said in an interview. “This (primary) was a strong campaign between Democrats. It will be a totally different ballgame in November. I feel our support is pretty strong. My support was throughout the whole county.”
Tuesday’s count includes ballots that had arrived through the symbolic poll-closing time of 8 p.m. Tuesday, said Chief Deputy Auditor Diana Bradrick.
That includes ballots in Tuesday’s mail, ballots left in drop boxes after collections made about noon Tuesday, and ballots cast in person at the Auditor’s Office.
Drop boxes are locked at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Bradrick, who is running unopposed for the position being vacated by Auditor Debbie Adelstein, said she is performing customer service and other election duties, but isn’t handling ballots.
The Wednesday count will include ballots received by mail Wednesday and ballots that were deposited in drop boxes Tuesday afternoon and evening and collected Wednesday morning.
Some 42,945 ballots had been counted by Tuesday night, for a preliminary turnout of 29% among Whatcom County’s 147,253 registered voters.
Turnout for an off-year primary is normally low — about 31% of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2017 August primary, 25% in 2015 and 22% in 2013, according to Auditor’s Office online records.
Only races with more than two candidates were on the “top-two” primary ballot.
In other races:
40th District state Senate
In the 40th District state Senate race, state Sen. Liz Lovelett of Anacortes was leading Carrie Blackwood, a Bellingham lawyer, by 36% to 20%. Both are Democrats. In third place was Republican Daniel Miller of Friday Harbor, with 19%, and in fourth place was Democrat Greta Aitken of Burlington, with 1%.
Votes for this race are tallied in San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties.
Whatcom County Council District 4
Kathy Kershner was leading with 69% of the vote in the district that covers north-central Whatcom County, including Lynden, Everson, Nooksack and Sumas. Brian Estes was in second place with 17% and Brad Kelly was in third with 13%
Whatcom County Council District 5
Ben Elenbaas was leading at 54% in the district that covers western and coastal Whatcom County, including Ferndale, Blaine and the Lummi Reservation. Natalie McClendon was in second place with 29% and Jaime Arnett was in third with 17%.
Whatcom County Council at-large (position B)
County Council member Carol Frazey was leading with 55% for the seat she currently holds.
David Ramirez was in second with 30% and Bill LaFreniere was third with 7%.
Brett Bonner, who announced that he would stop campaigning in May after admitting that he sexually harassed a woman online, was in fourth place with less than 7%.
Disclosures about Bonner came too late for him to legally withdraw, but he didn’t submit a statement for the voter guide, Bradrick said.
Bonner also didn’t raise funds for his campaign.
In an interview last week, Bonner said that he didn’t expect to place in the top two.
Bellingham City Council Ward 3
City Council member Daniel Hammill was leading with 65% of the vote in the city’s Ward 3 that includes the downtown business district, Whatcom Falls Park, and parts of the neighborhoods of Lettered Streets, York, Sunnyland, Cornwall Park, Roosevelt and Alabama Hill. Ashanti Monts-Treviska was in second place with 23% and Raymond A. Straka was in third with 12%.
Bellingham City Council at-large
Bellingham business owner Hollie Huthman was leading with 67%. Dana Briggs was in second place with 21% and Von Emeth Ochoa was in third with 11%.