Satpal Sidhu and Tony Larson were virtually tied in the race for Whatcom County executive and Seth Fleetwood was leading April Barker for Bellingham mayor by a wide margin in two of Whatcom County’s most closely watched races in the off-year election.
Election results released Tuesday night show Sidhu and Larson had 50% of the vote each. Larson led by 61 votes out of 48,251 total votes, according to the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office website.
Seats were open in both the county executive and Bellingham mayor races because the two-term incumbents weren’t running for re-election.
Nearly $500,000 was raised in the county executive race, including $166,000 for Larson and $184,000 for Sidhu. A political action committee called Coalition for A Better Northwest Washington raised $143,000 to support Larson and County Council Candidate Ben Elenbaas and to oppose Sidhu.
“Isn’t that something?” Larson said Tuesday night in an interview with The Bellingham Herald. “It is a nail-biter for sure. It’s a close race, we’ll count them up and see what it is tomorrow.”
Larson praised his campaign staff and supporters.
“I’m proud of the support that we got,” he said. “It’s all been about ideas and issues.”
Sidhu said he wasn’t surprised by the tight race and that he believes he’ll prevail.
“It’s a very close race,” he said in an interview with The Herald. “All the money they put up against me and look where we are.”
He said he believes that he’ll gain votes when late ballots from the city of Bellingham are counted.
“There was a long line at the ballot boxes today in Bellingham and the county votes early,” he said.
For Bellingham mayor, Fleetwood was leading Barker by 58% to 41%.
“It’s an exciting moment,” he told The Herald. “I’ve had a solid group of supporters and helpers who made this happen. I’m looking forward to 2020. It’s going to be an exciting time. There are lots of challenges that face our community — but also many opportunities.”
He said Barker reached out to him in a text message early Tuesday, before the polls had closed.
Barker said that her campaign energized a segment of Bellingham voters.
“We’ve created a movement,” she told The Herald. “We have to figure out, regardless of the next administration, how we’ll make Bellingham work for everyone — especially the climate. We represent change. Business as usual isn’t working.”
Tuesday’s count included ballots collected from drop boxes around Whatcom County through Tuesday afternoon and ballots that arrived by mail through Tuesday.
Results of a second count will be released Wednesday afternoon, including ballots from Wednesday’s mail and those placed in drop boxes before 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Voter registration was 146,704 Whatcom County residents as of Monday in Washington state’s vote-by-mail election.
Ballots were due by 8 p.m. Tuesday, meaning they had to be postmarked or placed in ballot boxes by that time.
About 42,000 ballots had been returned by Tuesday afternoon, according to the Auditor’s Office website.
A total of 49,286 ballots were counted Tuesday, for a preliminary turnout of 33.6%.
There were about 13,000 ballots left to count.
In other races:
Four-term Sheriff Bill Elfo was leading challenger Joy Gilfilen, who ran a campaign of jail reform, by a total of 71% to 29%.
Port of Bellingham Commissioner District 3
Bobby Briscoe was leading Anthony Distefano by 67% to 33%.
4th District County Council
Kathy Kershner was leading Brian Estes by 76% to 24%.
5th District County Council
Ben Elenbaas was leading Natalie McClendon by 59% to 40%.
At-large County Council
Councilmember Carol Frazey was leading David Ramirez by 60% to 39%.
40th District State Senate
State Sen. Liz Lovelett, an Anacortes Democrat, was leading Daniel Miller of Friday Harbor by a count of 68% to 31% for the 40th Legislative District seat in a confirmation vote that’s required because she was appointed to the post in February, replacing Kevin Ranker who resigned in January amid sexual harassment allegations. Totals for the race span three counties: San Juan, plus parts of Whatcom and Skagit. Lovelett was leading in all three counties.
Bellingham City Council Ward 1
Hannah Stone was leading Elizabeth Hartsoch 65% to 35%.
Bellingham City Council Ward 3
Daniel Hammill was leading Ashanti Monts-Treviska 79% to 21%.
Bellingham City Council Ward 5
Lisa Anderson was leading Chanan Suarez 71% to 28%.
Bellingham City Council At-Large
Hollie Huthman was leading Dana Briggs 79% to 20%.