Dean predicts recount is coming in Island County

Island County Commissioner John Dean predicts a recount will be necessary to decide his tight race with Kelly Emerson.

Dean, a Democrat, was down by a full 4 percentage points after the first tally on election night, but has edged closer and closer in subsequent counts. Following the Thursday count, he’s 536 votes behind his Republican challenger with an estimated 4,200 ballots left to count.

“If the trend continues, I guess it could come out pretty close to a tie,” he said.

Emerson has 15,556 ballots cast in her favor, while Dean has 15,020. That’s a difference of 1.76 percent. State law mandates a recount when the margin is less than 2,000 votes and less than 0.5 percent of the votes cast for both candidates.

Emerson remains optimistic about her chances and is excited about the prospects of working with the other two commissioners. She hopes to immediately pass a salary freeze on all employees when she takes office, but otherwise doesn’t have plans for proposing big changes until she “gets the lay of the land.”

“I’m hoping to get this budget crisis under control,” she said, “and bring back a government that works for us, not against us.”

There’s an even better chance of a recount in the race between Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and Republican John Koster. After the counts Thursday, Larsen leads by 110,447 to Koster’s 108,996. That’s a difference of 0.66 percent.

In a press release sent out Thursday, Koster’s spokesman, Larry Stickney, said campaign officials are working with attorneys and election experts in anticipation of a recount.

In a hotly contested county race, Republican Mary Engle unseated her boss, Democratic incumbent Assessor Dave Mattens. In the latest count, Engle has 16,430 and Mattens has 14,239, which translates to 54 percent to 46 percent.

Engle said voters supported her because she’s worked in the office for so long and ran a clean, positive campaign.

“I truly believe it had to do with experience and I also think it has to do with professionalism,” she said.

While Engle has been criticized by a number of higher-level staff members in the office, she has no intention of making any sweeping staff changes when she takes office next year. It’s her right to appoint her own chief deputy, but she’s not even sure if she’ll make that change. She does, however, plan to implement new procedures and foster a greater sense of professionalism and civility in the office.

In another county race, Debra Van Pelt, the Democratic candidate for county clerk, is far ahead of Republican challenger Carol Ann Fortune. Van Pelt has 17,890 votes while Fortune has 11,992 votes, which is 60 percent to 40 percent.

Van Pelt, an employee in the office, will take over from current Clerk Patricia Terry. Since Terry was appointed to the position, Van Pelt will become the new clerk as soon as the election results are certified at the end of the month. She said she plans to immediately hire someone new for the chief deputy position.

Van Pelt said the support of the county Democratic party helped her win.

“It makes a difference to the voters when your party backs you,” she said, alluding to the fact that Carol Ann Fortune wasn’t endorsed by the county Republicans.

Democrat Ana Maria Nunez, the current deputy treasurer, beat Republican Shane Fortune, Carol Ann’s husband, in the contest to be the next county treasurer. Nunez has 17,007 votes, or 57 percent, while Fortune has 12,739 votes, which is 43 percent.

It was a big turn-around for Nunez, who was behind in the primary election. She said Shane Fortune’s lack of participation in forums was a major factor in her success.

“I think his unwillingness to go to the forums and present himself to the voters weighed on people’s minds,” she said, but added that his performance at the forum he did attend — a Tea Party gathering — didn’t help him either.

Island County Coroner Robert Bishop, a Republican, will keep his job. He won easily against his non-party-affiliated rival, Paul Thompson. Bishop has 19,133 ballots cast in his favor, or 66 percent of the vote, while Thompson has 9,864, or 34 percent.

The two races for state representatives in District 10 weren’t close either. Incumbent Rep. Barbara Bailey (R-Oak Harbor) is ahead of Democratic rival Tom Riggs by 28,893 to 20,465. That’s about 59 percent to 41 percent.

Rep. Norma Smith (R-Clinton) is far ahead of Democrat Laura Lewis, who ran as a write-in during the primary election. Smith has 30,083, or 61 percent, and Lewis has 19,155, which is 39 percent.

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