Muzzall moves ahead as Republican candidates make gains in state races

County contests were more decisive, with Johnson and Bacon leading.

The Republicans in three state Legislative District 10 seats have surged in the vote count Thursday night, pushing the state senator ahead of his Democratic rival and narrowing the margin for the two House seats.

These state races remain too close to call with thousands of ballots left to count in Skagit County and recounts possible.

On the other hand, Island County races for two commissioner seats and a superior court judge position were more decisive with Commissioner Jill Johnson, the incumbent Republican, winning by a wide margin in District 2 and Democrat Melanie Bacon winning in District 1. Carolyn Cliff won the race to become a superior court judge.

Voters also approved the North Whidbey Fire and Rescue’s levy lid lift proposal.

While Sen. Ron Muzzall, who was appointed, was behind Democratic challenger Helen Price Johnson in the election night count, he is now ahead by 307 votes.

He has 40,821 ballots cast in his favor, slightly over 51 percent, while Price Johnson has 40,514 votes.

District 10 includes all of Island and parts of Skagit and Snohomish counties. Skagit didn’t release a vote count Thursday and reports having 35,000 ballots left to tally, though it’s unknown how many are in the district.

Muzzall, a North Whidbey resident, was elk hunting in Montana with one of hs daughters this week.

He said he wasn’t surprised by the turn of events, pointing out that the counting matched what happened in the primary election.

“Conservatives tend to be late voters,” he said, adding that he doesn’t know the exact psychology of the tendency.

While Muzzall said he is trying not to obsess with watching the numbers, he admitted to being frustrated by the “glacial pace” of vote counting in Skagit County.

Price Johnson, a Clinton resident, is currently an Island County commissioner but gave up running for reelection to challenge Muzzall for a state senate seat.

In the race for House seats, Democrat Angie Homola of Oak Harbor is still ahead of Republican Greg Gilday of Camano Island, though her lead has narrowed to 400 votes. She has 40,052 votes and he has 39,652.

Rep. Dave Paul, an Oak Harbor Democrat, still retains a healthy margin over Republican challenger Bill Bruch of La Conner. Paul has 41,176 votes, or just over 51 percent, and Bruch has 39,340 votes.

Recounts are possible in these races, depending on the results of additional ballot counts. Under state law, a machine recount is mandated in non-statewide races when the difference between the top two candidates is less than 2,000 and also less than one-half of 1 percent of the total number of votes cast for both candidates.

In the race for the county commissioner seat in the district representing Oak Harbor, Johnson has more than 61 percent of the vote, with 27,001 ballots cast in her favor. Republican challenger Dan Evans has less than 39 percent with 17,097 votes.

Johnson said she enjoyed bipartisan support because the voters wanted experience and stability and are aware that she represents all citizens equally, “regardless of party, income or influence.”

She added that the electorate understands that she is motivated by a desire to serve the public, not to wield power.

“I also think some of the vote was a referendum on out-of-state developers trying to buy local elections,” she said. “Voters don’t like the idea that their elected officials are in someone’s pocket, and they shouldn’t.”

She added that Island County voters aren’t unsophisticated and they “knew what was going on and said a resounding no.”

In the other race, Langley resident Melanie Bacon, a Democrat, is ahead of Republican Damian Greene, a Clinton resident, by just 781 votes. Bacon’s lead narrowed since the Nov. 3 count, but Island County’s election office reports that just 750 ballots are left to tally.

Bacon has 25,279 votes, or 50.8 percent, and Greene has 24,498, or 49.2 percent.

Bacon, the county’s human resource director, said she has always worked well with Johnson and Commissioner Janet St. Clair, and she expects that to continue as she takes on the new role.

The tight margin in the election, she said, underlines a division among voters; she said she will strive to understand and respect different opinions.

“I am going to have to listen to the other side,” she said.

In the contest for a superior court judge position, Cliff beat fellow Langley resident Kathleen Petrich. Cliff has 25,491 votes, which is more than 59 percent, while Petrich has 17,422, or nearly 41 percent.

Voters passed the North Whidbey Fire and Rescue’s request for a 15-cent property tax levy lift for equipment replacement, with more than 64 percent of voters approving it.

The measure means the owner of a $370,000 house — the district’s average — will pay an extra $55.50 a year in property taxes.

Chief John Clark thanked the community in a letter to the editor and reiterated that the funding will be used to replace two fire engines, self-contained breathing apparatus for firefighters and emergency radios.

“This apparatus and equipment is critical to saving lives and property as well as keeping our firefighters safe,” he wrote.

Voter turnout in Island County was among the highest in the state at 83.23 percent. The statewide voter turnout was nearly 78 percent.