As ballots are counted, three legislative races tighten

Democrats Paul, Homola and Price Johnson saw their leads shrink in a trio of 10th District races.

EVERETT — Democratic candidates maintained leads Wednesday in three closely watched legislative races representing Snohomish, Skagit and Island county residents.

But each saw their advantage on Republican opponents shrink following a second day of ballot counting.

That’s good news for Republican state Sen. Ron Muzzall of North Whidbey Island who is trying to keep the 10th District seat to which he was appointed last year.

He trailed Democrat Helen Price Johnson by 1,319 votes on Election Night but Wednesday’s tally cut the margin to 279 votes.

Skagit County had an estimated 35,000 returned ballots that are not yet tallied and there are still around 35,000 ballots in Snohomish County to count though it is not known how many are in this legislative district.

Price Johnson, an Island County Commissioner, took the news in stride, saying results were difficult to read with so many votes remaining from Skagit County.

“We are still hanging on to a slim lead which we are grateful for,” she said. “We just want all the ballots to be counted and we sure hope to prevail.”

Muzzall could not be reached for comment.

Ron Muzzall (left) and Helen Price Johnson

Ron Muzzall (left) and Helen Price Johnson

The two are competing for a four-year term in the district which covers all of Whidbey Island and Camano Island, as well as parts of south Skagit and north Snohomish counties, including the cities of Mount Vernon, La Conner and Stanwood.

In a battle for an open House seat in the district, Democrat Angie Homola led Republican Greg Gilday, 50.5% to 49.3% on Wednesday. Her 878 vote lead is down from 1,763 a day earlier.

Greg Gilday (left) and Angie Homola

Greg Gilday (left) and Angie Homola

The winner will succeed the retiring Republican Rep. Norma Smith of Clinton.

In a tight district that has swung in recent years between Republicans and Democrats, Homola said the early results are what her campaign had hoped.

“I am encouraged by the outcome,” she said. “While all the ballots have yet to be counted, the results indicate to me that citizens in the 10th LD are ready for an elected official who serves the common good.”

And Rep. Dave Paul, D-Oak Harbor, who is seeking a second term, lost a chunk of his lead on Republican Bill Bruch. Paul was beating Bruch 51.5% to 48.4% and had 2,395 more votes. But on Tuesday, the margin was 3,287 votes.

“We knew it was going to be a close race,” Paul said. “I am cautiously optimistic.”

Tight races are not new for Paul. Two years ago, when he unseated a Republican incumbent, Dave Hayes, the final margin was 785 votes.

Bill Bruch (left ) and Dave Paul

Bill Bruch (left ) and Dave Paul

Elsewhere in Snohomish County, Democrat April Berg lost some of her lead on Republican Mark James in their duel for an open House seat in the 44th District.

Berg, of Mill Creek, led James, of Marysville, 52.5% to 47.4%. She had nearly 54% on Tuesday. The winner will succeed Rep. Jared Mead, D-Mill Creek, representing residents of Mill Creek, Lake Stevens, Snohomish and part of Marysville.

Mark James (left) and April Berg

Mark James (left) and April Berg

In Olympia Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee, fresh off a convincing win for a third term, said at a news conference that he had not yet spoken with his opponent, Republican Loren Culp. Culp told supporters on Election Night he would not concede until every vote is counted.

“Frankly, that’s immaterial,” Inslee said of whether Culp formally concedes. Voters are the ones who decide who the next governor is “and it’s not Mr. Culp,” Inslee said.

Inslee told reporters one of his first priorities is to “knock down” the COVID-19 pandemic and said he would have more to say on the subject at a Thursday news conference.

Meanwhile, Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman widened her lead on Democratic challenger Gael Tarleton in Wednesday’s tally of votes.

Wyman, who is seeking a third term, led Tarleton, a four-term state representative from Seattle, 52.3% to 47.7%, an increase of almost a full percentage point.

Kim Wyman (left) and Gael Tarleton

Kim Wyman (left) and Gael Tarleton

Wyman and Treasurer Duane Davidson are currently the only Republicans holding statewide office in Washington.

But Davidson won’t be getting a second term. He is losing to Democrat Mike Pellicciotti, a state lawmaker from Federal Way.

If Wyman suffers a similar fate, it will leave no Republicans in any of the state’s executive offices, which has not happened since the 1960s.

Wednesday’s tally also made clear that a state law mandating public schools provide comprehensive sexual education instruction will take effect.

Referendum 90 was passing with just over 59% statewide with nearly 57% support in Snohomish County.

In a statement, the Approve 90 campaign said the victory “is a renewed mandate for all of us to make sure that young people in every community get honest, accurate and inclusive information that helps them make good decisions about sex, to protect themselves and to protect their futures. We look forward to working with schools and parents in every community to make sure every young person has access to quality sex education.”

Late Wednesday, Mindie Wirth of Bothell, who led the effort to put the issue on the ballot, conceded defeat.

“We’re very disappointed with the results,” she said in a statement. “While there are still many votes to be counted, it looks like we will not be successful. Nevertheless, I know that this powerful coalition will continue to hold Olympia accountable in the future.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; Twitter: @dospueblos.

Top (L-R): Ron Muzzall, Helen Price Johnson, Greg Gilday, Angie Homola, Kim Wyman. Bottom (L-R): Bill Bruch, Dave Paul, Mark James, April Berg, Gael Tarleton.