City, schools elections attracted only 50 percent of voters

December 1, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

With few contested races on the ballot, about half of Issaquah city and school district voters cast ballots in the Nov. 3 election, final King County Elections results released last week show.Turnout in the city races reached 50.27 percent, while in the school district — which includes parts of Sammamish, Newcastle and Renton — turnout was slightly lower: 49.87 percent.

Elections officials mailed 16,351 ballots to city voters; 8,219 were returned. The elections office sent 56,804 ballots to school district voters; 28,329 were postmarked by midnight Election Day.

The contest was the first all-mail general election held in King County, and the elections office forecast 56 percent turnout countywide. But turnout was lower: 53.55 percent. King County has about 1.1 million registered voters.

The county Canvassing Board met Nov. 24 to certify the election results, the final step in a quiet campaign season for Issaquah voters.

“Turnout was slightly lower than we projected, but right in line with other odd-year general elections,” county Elections Director Sherril Huff said in a news release after the results were certified. “It’s nice to see a substantial number of voters turn out, given how important the candidates on the ballot are: like the executive, many city mayors and council members, and others who affect the day-to-day lives of King County voters.”

Although four City Council races appeared on the ballot, only two were contested. Councilwoman Eileen Barber and newcomer Mark Mullet were elected unopposed. Mayor Ava Frisinger was elected to a fourth term without opposition.

In the contested races, incumbent Council President Maureen McCarry bested challenger Joan Probala, 68.47 percent to 31.21 percent. Final election results show McCarry received 4,634 votes and Probala took 2,112 in the Position 5 race. The remaining percentage went to write-in votes.

In the Position 7 race, Tola Marts beat Nathan Perea, 60.42 percent to 39.21 percent, while the remainder went to write-ins. Marts pulled in 4,014 votes and Perea drew 2,605.

The school board contest between first-time candidates Marnie Maraldo and Wright Noel ended with Maraldo ahead, 58.24 percent to 41.31 percent. Maraldo garnered 12,261 votes, while 8,697 ballots were marked for Noel. The remaining percentage went to write-in votes.

Voters also elected Chad Magendanz — appointed to the school board last October — and won the seat unopposed.

City Council and school board contests attracted higher turnout than the last time voters decided positions on both panels, in November 2007.

In the last City Council election, held before the switch to all-mail voting, Issaquah voters cast 6,662 ballots and turnout reached 47.88 percent. The same year, school board district voters cast 24,078 ballots; turnout was 46.65 percent.

In addition to the local races, Issaquah voters cast ballots for county executive in the rough-and-tumble contest between then-County Councilman Dow Constantine and former newscaster Susan Hutchison. Constantine defeated Hutchison, 59.04 percent to 40.68 percent.

Constantine was sworn in hours after the results were certified Nov. 24. The longtime politician became the third county leader since May, when then-Executive Ron Sims stepped down to take a post in the Obama administration and was succeeded by interim Kurt Triplett.

Other countywide races produced few sparks. County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, whose district includes Issaquah, was re-elected unopposed. Lambert, a former state senator from Redmond, was first elected in 2001.

County Councilman Reagan Dunn — whose district includes unincorporated King County land south of Issaquah, as well as parts of Bellevue, Newcastle and Renton — defeated a long-shot challenge from Maple Valley corporate trainer Beverly Harison Tonda. Dunn won the race in a landslide, 77.19 percent to 22.49 percent.

King County voters also overwhelmingly approved a batch of amendments to the county charter, including a measure to strengthen protections for county-owned open space. Voters also picked former Port Commissioner Lloyd Hara from a crowded field to serve as county assessor.

Elections officials reported only two discrepancies out of almost 1.2 million ballots received during elections held throughout the past year. Officials said the Nov. 3 election marked the first time the office met the Six Sigma standard — a data-driven method to reduce defects.

“This really is a testament to how much work has gone into streamlining our procedures and how accountable our process has become over the years,” Huff said. “It is such an accomplishment for the department to have met these standards as we prepare to continue to benchmark our successes with these standards in the years to come.”

New executive pledges to transform county government

King County Executive Dow Constantine took office last week, and declared he would create a “culture of performance” in county government. The former county councilman said he would work during his first 100 days in office to change the way the county conducts business.

“We must create a culture of performance at King County that changes the way we do business, changes the way we serve people and that changes the way we budget,” Constantine said to more than 500 attendees during the swearing-in ceremony at elegant Daniels Recital Hall in Seattle. “Old and sluggish institutions are in need of an update. The era of government by mere good intention is over.”

After U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Jones swore in Constantine, the executive said the first step to create “a culture of continuous improvement” was to appoint State Sen. Fred Jarrett as deputy county executive. Jarrett, a Mercer Island Democrat, represents a segment of Issaquah in the Senate.

Constantine said the new administration would reach out to leaders from the 39 cities in King County, as well as residents of the unincorporated areas.

“For too long, King County government has talked too much and not listened enough,” Constantine said. “We are going to change that.”

He laid out a plan he said would support the economy, protect the environment and build infrastructure by promoting “green” jobs and projects, tying growth to transit development and expanding voter-approved light rail.

Officials could name new senator soon

A new state senator will be seated soon, and Issaquah residents will be part of his or her district. New Deputy County Executive Fred Jarrett has represented the 41st District in the Senate since January, after serving eight years in the state House. But the Mercer Island Democrat indicated he would resign from the Senate in order to serve in the county post, although Jarrett is not required to leave the Senate under state law.

When Jarrett resigns from the Senate, the County Council will pick a successor from a list of candidates submitted by local Democratic Party leaders. The next senator will serve until next fall, when 41st District voters will elect a replacement to fill the seat until 2012, when the term ends.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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