Local Election

Wednesday numbers keep Whatcom County executive race tight

Satpal Sidhu took a slight lead Wednesday over Tony Larson as more ballots were counted for Whatcom County executive — the only major local race that remained undetermined after election night results.

Updated election results posted Wednesday afternoon at the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office website showed Sidhu with 50.08% and Larson with 49.8%.

Sidhu’s lead was 163 votes out of 63,654 cast for county executive.

An estimated 10,000 ballots remain to be counted, according to the Auditor’s Office. An updated count was expected Thursday afternoon.

If the race remains this close, a recount is possible.

Under state law, a machine recount is required when the difference between the top two candidates is less than 2,000 votes and less than one-half of 1% of the total number of votes cast for both candidates. A hand recount must be conducted when the difference between the two candidates is less than 150 votes and less than one-quarter of 1% of the total votes cast for both candidates.

Larson and Sidhu had been in a virtual dead heat after initial results Tuesday night, with Larson leading by 61 votes out of 48,251 ballots cast for that race, according to the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office website.

Whatcom County executive candidate Satpal Sidhu cheers as the initial numbers come up on the big screen during his election night party at the Whatcom Democrats’ office in downtown Bellingham Tuesday. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

Two-term incumbent Jack Louws wasn’t seeking 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.

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Whatcom County executive candidate Tony Larson mingles with election night partygoers at the Bellingham Golf and County Club Tuesday. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

“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,” Sidhu said.

Bellingham mayor

In the race for Bellingham mayor, Fairhaven lawyer Seth Fleetwood was leading City Councilwoman April Barker by 56% to 43%.

“It’s an exciting moment,” Fleetwood 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.”

Barker said that her campaign energized a segment of Bellingham voters.

“We’ve created a movement,” Barker 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.”

Wednesday’s count included ballots that collected from drop boxes around Whatcom County — which were locked at 8 p.m. Tuesday— and ballots that arrived by mail Wednesday with a valid postmark.

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.

A total of 64,962 ballots were counted through Wednesday, for a preliminary turnout of 44.3%, according to the Auditor’s Office website.

In other races:


Four-term Sheriff Bill Elfo was leading challenger Joy Gilfilen by 70% to 29%.


John Romaker was leading Rebecca Xczar by 50.19% to 49.6%.

Port of Bellingham Commissioner District 3

Bobby Briscoe was leading Anthony Distefano by 66% 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 60% to 40%.

At-large County Council

Councilmember Carol Frazey was leading David Ramirez by 60% to 40%.

40th District State Senate

State Sen. Liz Lovelett, an Anacortes Democrat, was leading Daniel Miller of Friday Harbor by a count of 69% to 31% in a confirmation vote that’s required because she was appointed to the post in February, replacing Kevin Ranker who resigned 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 64% to 36%.

Bellingham City Council Ward 3

Daniel Hammill was leading Ashanti Monts-Treviska 77% to 23%.

Bellingham City Council Ward 5

Lisa Anderson was leading Chanan Suarez 69% to 30%.

Bellingham City Council At-Large

Hollie Huthman was leading Dana Briggs 80% to 19%.

Ferndale mayor

Greg Hansen was leading Jon Mutchler by 52% to 47%.

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Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.