Goen wins fire seat, but recount required

Challenger Jerry Goen beat incumbent Larry Morse in the North Whidbey Fire and Rescue race, but it will take a recount before the new commissioner is officially crowned.

Goen won by the second-narrowest of margins, eking out a two-vote advantage over Morse. The final tally announced Friday afternoon by the Island County Auditor’s Office left Goen with 2,196 votes to 2,194 for Morse.

The scant victory requires a hand recount of the votes cast within the boundaries of Fire District 2, said Michelle Reagan, an elections administrator.

“At two votes apart we’re definitely in that range,” Reagan said of the recount rules.

State law mandates a recount if the final margin is both fewer than one-quarter of one percent and fewer than 1,000 votes.

Goen received 50.02 percent of the vote to 49.98 percent for Morse, making the margin of victory only .04 percent.

Reagan said the election will be certified by the canvassing board Nov. 24 and a date will be set for the recount to begin. It is anticipated the recount will start Monday, Nov. 30.

It will be an arduous process, as ballots cast within the fire district will have to be pulled out of the total number cast, and then counted by hand. Reagan estimated the process will take several days.

Goen was happy with the apparent win, regardless of how close the final vote was. “It wasn’t a landslide by any means,” he said.

On election night Nov. 3, Morse held a 38-vote lead and that increased to 43 votes the next day. But there were still several thousand mail-in ballots to count and Goen eventually pulled ahead. “I never gave up hope,” he said.

As the apparent new fire district commissioner, Goen said he will stress educating the public and firefighters about issues important to the district.

Morse expressed surprise at the closeness of the race. “I never thought it would come down to this,” he said. He was at the auditor’s office Friday morning where there were still two votes to count. He was behind by two at the time and lost by two, so the final two votes were split.

Morse said he was hoping to serve more than one term because he “wanted to contribute.” And he’s not giving up quite yet as he waits for the recount. “I’m hoping something happens,” he said.

Both candidates have been North Whidbey Fire and Rescue volunteers for many years, and they know each other well.

“I encouraged him one other time to run for office,” Morse said of Goen. “But not against me.”

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