Voters decide city, schools races
November 10, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
Issaquah voters elected a pair of political newcomers — including the first Issaquah Highlands representative — to the City Council last week, and returned Maureen McCarry to the council with a landslide victory.Mayor Ava Frisinger was elected unopposed to a fourth term, and Councilwoman Eileen Barber cruised to victory in another uncontested race.
Meanwhile, school district voters elevated education advocate and volunteer Marnie Maraldo to the school board. District voters also elected school board member Chad Magendanz. The candidate — appointed to the panel last October — was unopposed in his election bid.
The contested races produced frontrunners as Election Day, Nov. 3, wrapped, wiping aside concerns about the possibility of lengthy ballot counts and uncertain outcomes.
Incumbent McCarry bested challenger Joan Probala, a South Cove real estate agent, and voters chose newcomer Tola Marts, a Squak Mountain mechanical engineer, over Nathan Perea, a mortgage adviser and highlands resident, in the contested City Council races.
Marts led Perea by 1,364 votes in the batch of returns released Nov. 9 by King County Elections. Incumbent McCarry widened the gap between her and Probala to 2,441 votes.
“The candidates who talked about specific, concrete issues” connected with voters, Marts said after the elections office released the first unofficial returns Nov. 3.
The school board contest was also decided by a wide margin: 3,468 votes separated Maraldo from Noel in results released Nov. 9.
Maraldo, a former Cisco Systems project manager and now stay-at-home mother, built her reputation as a school volunteer and education advocate. The first-time candidate outpaced Wright Noel, a lawyer who has children at many levels in the Issaquah school system, from kindergarten to senior year of high school.
Maraldo said the election results came as a pleasant surprise, especially because the candidates had no polls or data to show who might win.
“I was holding my breath, because we didn’t know,” Maraldo said. “We had no real reading from the public.”
The elections office predicted 56 percent of King County voters would cast ballots, though turnout appeared sluggish. In the City Council races, only 48 percent had been returned to the elections office and tallied by Nov. 9. In the school district races — which included voters in parts of Sammamish and Renton — the total was a smidge lower: 47 percent.
Candidates marked the end of the cordial, quiet campaign season in different ways: Marts and McCarry hosted a joint post-election party at Stan’s Bar-B-Q, while Probala and her supporters gathered a few blocks away at Gibson Hall. Perea pulled campaign signs from city roadsides and medians, and then headed to Zeeks Pizza to await election returns. The school board candidates, Maraldo and Noel, each huddled at home with friends and family members.
Candidates celebrated the end of campaign season, after months spent laboring over questionnaires, amassing endorsements, raising money and ringing voters’ doorbells — a lot of doorbells.
Perea estimated he knocked on almost 2,000 doors during the sprint to Election Day, while Marts said he called on voters at about 1,000 houses.
“I did everything I could have done,” Perea said just before unofficial returns were announced.
Despite the suspense generated by the contested races, other contests were decided months ago when the June candidate-filing period ended.
No candidate stepped forward to challenge Frisinger. The mayor, first elected in 1997 and re-elected in subsequent races, has said the term will be her last. Barber, elected in a tight 2005 contest, failed to attract a challenger as she campaigned for a second City Council term.
Newcomer Mark Mullet, a former banking executive and owner of the local Zeeks Pizza, ran unopposed and became the first highlands resident elected to the City Council. The decade-old community is home to almost 7,000 people.
Come January, Mullet will fill the Position 1 seat held by John Rittenhouse, who opted not to run for re-election after a single term. When Rittenhouse sidestepped a re-election bid in June, he hinted at a future run for city office, possibly as early as the next municipal election in 2011.
Marts and Perea vied to succeed longtime Councilman David Kappler. Kappler, first elected to the council in 1991, backed Marts for the seat.
Challengers ended the race with gracious words. Perea sent a congratulatory e-mail to Marts after the campaign concluded. Maraldo characterized the school board race as “above board, about the issues and about the kids.”
As the campaign season wrapped, Probala congratulated McCarry and offered advice: She said city leaders must find innovative solutions to the challenges Issaquah faces.
Probala, a member of several city boards, led the successful 2005 push to annex her South Cove neighborhood into Issaquah. She said her involvement in city affairs was far from over. Next up: a mid-November trip to Sunndal, Norway, to revive the stalled sister-city relationship between Issaquah and its Scandinavian sibling.
“I have other things to do,” Probala said as her election-night party at Gibson Hall came to a close. “I have plans.”
Probala said she was proud of the campaign, and pleased with the volunteers who turned out on her behalf.
McCarry was elected to a second full term as a councilwoman. After Frisinger became mayor and left the City Council in 1998, McCarry was picked from 10 candidates to fill the seat. McCarry served until 2000, opted not to run then and made a council comeback four years ago.
When the next City Council takes office in January, new and longstanding issues will greet members. The docket will include decisions related to the construction of the new Swedish Medical Center campus and the Interstate 90 Undercrossing to link north and south Issaquah.
Officials face a stark financial picture and will help guide the city through the economic recovery. The specter of additional city layoffs and spending cuts looms as well.
McCarry said her experience as a councilwoman readied her for the challenge and attracted voters to her candidacy.
“I spoke to the issues and I think people really listened,” she said as she paid her election-night tab at the downtown barbecue joint.
Maureen McCarry: 68.70 percent
Joan Probala: 31.02 percent
Write-in: 0.28 percent
Tola Marts: 60.57 percent
Nathan Perea: 39.12 percent
Write-in: 0.31 percent
Marnie Maraldo: 58.47 percent
Wright Noel: 41.16 percent
Write-in: 0.36 percent
Source: King County Elections
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.