Local Election

Here’s the apparent winner in the Whatcom County executive race

Satpal Sidhu expanded his lead and is the apparent winner Thursday over Tony Larson, after the third day of counting in the race for Whatcom County executive.

Updated election results posted Thursday at the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office website showed Sidhu with 50.5% and Larson with 49.3% out of 76,307ballots cast.

Sidhu’s apparent victory was outside the margin for a mandatory recount under state law.

Thursday’s count means that the majority of the ballots have been received, said Diana Bradrick, who is chief deputy auditor.

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, according to reports filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Some 10,000 votes were counted Thursday and an estimated 2,800 ballots remain — mostly from overseas and military voters, Bradrick told The Bellingham Herald.

Bradrick said that so many ballots remained to be counted Thursday because votes were returned later than usual for this election and because of computer delays caused when Washington state counties switched to a central server to accommodate same-day voter registration.

“It isn’t normal,” she said. “We had a really slow return for the first two weeks. I didn’t turn in my ballot until Election Day, which is unusual for me. Statewide, everybody got bombed on Monday.”

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Bradrick, who ran unopposed to replace Auditor Debbie Adelstein, said she did not assist with this year’s election.

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.

Sidhu took a 163-vote lead on Wednesday, 31,865-31,702.

Officials counted 78,022 ballots from among 146,750 registered voters, for a turnout of 53.2%.

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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.