Democrats nearly sweep county

Democrats dominated in several tight races for Island County offices, though the county’s only democratic commissioner in many years is polling behind his Republic rival.

With 18,645 votes from all precincts counted late Tuesday night, Democrat Sharon Franzen was beating Republican County Clerk Jane Koetje by 8,974 to 8,321; incumbent county Prosecutor Greg Banks was ahead of Republican rival Kelly Barlean by 9,453 to 7,894; and Democrat county treasurer Linda Riffe was leading long-time treasurer Maxine Sauter, 9,382 to 8,025.

Current Island County Commissioner Bill Thorn was losing to Republican rival William Byrd, an Oak Harbor resident, in a close race. Thorn garnered 8,188 votes to Byrd’s 8,620.

All the mail-in ballots have not been counted.

In state races, Oak Harbor resident Barbara Bailey, a Republican, was edging out LaConner Mayor Eron Berg for the state representative seat, position 2. Bailey had 12,424 to Berg’s 11,080 votes.

It looks like Democrat U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen will keep his position. He earned 55,498 votes to Republican challenger Norma Smith’s 49,295.

Voters roundly rejected R51, the transportation bill that would have added a 9 cent gas tax with resulting revenues earmarked for numberous highway and transportation improvements around the state.Voters rejected the referendum by a margin of nearly 63 percent against with a mere 37 percent approving the measure.

The Tim Eyman sponsered Initiative 776, which would limit license tab fees to a fixed price of $30 annually, received a 53 percent approval, with 46 percent voting against the measure.

Franzen, a former deputy clerk, may make Island County history. She ran in the primary election as a write-in candidate for the clerk after her boss, clerk appointee Koetje, fired her.

“I don’t think anything particularly turned the tide,” Franzen said Tuesday night. “I think it was just all the people out there that cared about me and cared about the issues. I’m sure that people are doing things that I’m not even aware of in support of me.”

The candidates for county treasurer and prosecutor ran especially fiesty campaigns. Riffe, a school administrator, said she will work to bring the office in compliance with the state Auditor’s recommendations.

“I think the people have spoken,” she said. “They have said we want things cleaned up. We want to see these changes begin to take place. I will immediately begin to start working on the issues.”

Banks said he won’t hold any grudges against — and will “sort it out” — with members of law enforcement who supported Barlean during the campaign. He said he’s ready to get back to the business of prosecuting the bad guys.

“I think we ran a good campaign...” he said. “I’ve always had confidence in my staff. The office has been behind me one hundred percent.”

In the race for county commissioner, Byrd said he has his work cut out for him.

“I think the real issue as far as the people are concerned,” Byrd said, “is they just want to know that somebody cares. I think I’ve got that point across.”

You can reach Jessie Stensland at or call 675-6611.

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