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Some races still close as vote count continues

"If people are unhappy with the way government is run, they certainly didn't show it at the ballot box Tuesday. For the most part, Island County voters appear to be sticking with incumbents in races for county commissioner, House and Senate.On a contrary note, as ballot counting halted for the night Tuesday, voters appear to have given their support to Republican Barry Sehlin over incumbent Democrat Dave Anderson in the state House.But with nearly 20,000 absentee ballots and high voter turnout, many races can't be nailed down. By the end of election day about 50 percent of the total vote had been tallied. So far, however, Island County District 2 Commissioner McDowell looked to be defending his post against a strong challenge from Democrat Lynne Wilcox who had been campaigning for a year. Their race became the closest, most confrontational and caustic race of the political season. Wilcox had hoped to rally behind taxpayer unrest based on the long and expensive growth planning process McDowell has overseen for the past eight years. She also picked up the support of environmentalists and county employees.But McDowell focused on the fact that the county's growth plan is nearly done, something other counties envy. He also heralded his conservative fiscal policies which he said resulted in a county budget reserve. The race was still a little too close to call for certain Tuesday.On the other hand, the District 1 commissioner seat was retained convincingly by two-term Langley Republican Mike Shelton. Shelton ran up almost twice the number of votes as opponent William Rowlands of Clinton. The Island County Democratic Party had refused to endorse Rowlands in the contest.In other local races, two-term incumbent state Senator Mary Margaret Haugen of Camano Island was holding off Republican challenger Norma Smith of Clinton. Haugen's win means she will return to her chairmanship position on the Senate Transportation Committee.The race was noted for pledges both candidates made to run a clean campaign. However, in the final days Haugen came under fire in a couple negative hit fliers produced by the Republican Party - pieces Smith said she had not authorized. In the 10th District House races, Langley Republican Kelly Barlean looks to be headed back to Olympia. But Clinton Democrat Dave Anderson could have to go home. By late Tuesday Republican Barry Sehlin held a lead over Anderson by just a few percentage points. Sehlin, a former state legislator and commander of the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station could return to the House after stepping down two years ago.Anderson, a South Whidbey golf course owner and former veterinarian, emphasized his pro-environment stance and his experience as a small business owner during the campaign. He is in his second term.Barlean, who is completing his first term in the House, made many friends among environmental voters during the past two years by writing and backing bills that helped protect Whidbey prairies and wetlands. He also gained support among his colleagues picking up a seat on the important Appropriations Committees. As counting wrapped Tuesday, Barlean led challenger John McCoy by a comfortable margin.On ballot issues, voters statewide said yes to Initiative 713 which make use of certain animal traps and poisons illegal; I-722 which limits property tax increases and throws out 1999 tax and fee increases; I-728 which shuffles more money to education; and I-732 which give teachers an automatic cost of living pay increase; Voters rejected Initiative 729 which would have allowed schools and universities to sponsor charter schools; and I-745 which would have allocated 90 percent of transportation revenues to road repair and construction. The passage of the Tim Eyman-backed I-722 could be a major blow to cities such as Oak Harbor whose officials have predicted sharp cuts in services if it passed. The so called Son of I-695 could very well be headed for court like its namesake however. In late October the state Supreme Court ruled that the similar tax-cutting I-695 was unconstitutional. On the flip side, a no vote on Eyman's I-745 is good news to supporters of Island Transit. The initiative would have potentially shut down the system. And the approval of Initiative 728 will be a blessing to the Oak Harbor School District who will be able to lower the local levy amount they will ask voters to approve this spring.For the latest results go to the Island County Auditor Web site at www.islandcounty.net/auditor/election%20results.htm. "

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