Homola, Knue barely hanging on

Ballot counts are so close in two elections affecting Island County that candidates’ fingernails have reason to be afraid. Very afraid.

Following the Thursday night count, just 74 votes divides the candidates for a state representative position in District 10, which covers Island and parts of Skagit and Snohomish counties. Democrat Tim Knue of Mount Vernon is just barely ahead with 28,854 votes while Republican Norma Smith of Clinton has 28,780 ballots cast in her favor.

The difference is just over one-tenth of one percent.

Knue is cautiously optimistic.

“We’re still holding strong in Snohomish and Skagit counties,” he said. “My fingernails are sharpened and I’m hanging on. I’ve been here before.” More votes will continue to be counted in the coming days.

Smith, who was appointed to the position last year, is also hopeful.

“In all three counties, I’ve been gaining votes. I’m hopeful that will continue,” she said.

In the other tight race, incumbent Island County Commissioner Mac McDowell, an Oak Harbor Republican, continues to inch his way toward Democratic challenger Angie Homola, also an Oak Harbor resident.

Homola has 17,708 votes and McDowell has 17,325, which is a difference of 383 ballots. That’s 1 percent. On election night, Homola was ahead by 849 votes.

The Island County Auditor’s Office received thousands of ballots following the election. The office estimates that 4,000 ballots are left to count, with 38,450 counted so far.

Neither Homola nor McDowell were willing to speculate on the final results. McDowell would only say that he remains “hopeful” when contacted at a conference in the Tri-Cities.

But win or lose, Homola said she’s pleased with her strong showing against an entrenched politician.

“It’s a good year for people wanting to make a change for a better future,” she said.

Other races are easier to call. Appointed County Commissioner Phil Bakke, a Greenbank Republican, has already congratulated challenger Helen Price Johnson, a Democrat from South Whidbey. She received 18,715 votes and Bakke got 16,804.

“Clearly people in the community are ready for a change,” she said.

Bakke was circumspect about the results and pointed out that county commissioner races are always close.

“It reinforces the fact that Island County is a very ideologically split county,” he said. “The split is what makes it fun to be here. It generates a lot of thorough and rigorous debate.”

Bakke, the county’s former planning director, is considering going back to college to pursue a law degree or a doctorate in planning.

Island County Auditor Sheilah Crider, who was also appointed, continues to outpace fellow Republican Jim Palmer with 16,842 to 14,418 votes.

Oak Harbor resident Barbara Bailey, the incumbent Republican representative, is safe with 31,288 votes while Democrat Patricia Terry of Camano has 25,796 votes.

Another incumbent lawmaker, Democratic state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen of Camano, is ahead of Republican Linda Haddon, an Oak Harbor resident, by 31,511 to 27,036 in a hard-fought and expensive contest.

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