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Returns drop Sen. Berkey to third; 5,000 more ballots left to be counted

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By Jerry Cornfield
Herald Writer
  • Jean Berkey District 38 senator

    Jean Berkey District 38 senator

  • Nick Harper Legislative District 38 state senator

    Nick Harper Legislative District 38 state senator

  • Rod Rieger for Washington State Senate 38th District Position 1

    Rod Rieger for Washington State Senate 38th District Position 1

EVERETT – State Sen. Jean Berkey's political future is in jeopardy today after she slid into third place in the latest tally of votes in the Aug. 17 primary.
Berkey, a moderate Everett Democrat, slipped 19 votes behind Rod Rieger of Marysville in the results released Friday. Democrat Nick Harper of Everett remains the leader in the three-person race in the 38th District.
As many as 5,000 ballots from around the county remain uncounted with the next updated tabulation of votes due out Tuesday afternoon
If the order doesn't change, Harper and Rieger will advance to the general election.
"Isn't that amazing? I only raised $800," said Rieger, who appeared on the ballot as "prefers Conservative Party."
Berkey could not be reached for comment Friday.
If Friday's results hold, it will mean success for a coalition of labor unions and social progressives that conducted an independent campaign to oust the 71-year-old lawmaker from office.
They formed the political committee Stand Up For Citizens and spent nearly $300,000 on a television commercial and close to a dozen mailers that blasted the incumbent on one side and praised the newcomer on the other.
They also hired people to canvass neighborhoods and phone voters to make a case against Berkey and for Harper – whom they urged into the race in June.
Their message was Berkey, a moderate, had become too close to banks, insurers and other businesses and not the teachers, state employees and health care workers they represent.
"We only told the truth," said Kathy Cummings, spokeswoman for the Washington State Labor Council's Don't Invest in More Excuses political action committee.
In the final weekend, the committee's consultant, Moxie Media of Seattle, produced and mailed two pieces urging voters to support Rieger.
But Rieger didn't think those mailers helped him at all.
"I attribute it more to the voters' total discontent with the government and those in it," he said.
Harper, 31, the conservation director at the Cascade Land Conservancy, is making his first run for office. He raised $55,000 for the primary and landed support from a number of unions and political leaders, including state Reps. John McCoy, D-Tulalip and Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish.
Rieger, 45, the owner of Owner of Audio Video Security Systems Inc., didn't do much campaigning but vows he will.
"I think I'll be able to raise more money," he said.
Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623;

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