Initial primary-night tallies showed Klein, a Republican, with about 31 percent of the 15,208 votes counted. Blake, a Democrat, had nearly 29 percent. The top two finishers advance to the Nov. 5 general election.
"We're very excited, actually a little bit surprised, to be honest with you," said Klein, who was celebrating at his Arlington home with family members and campaign volunteers.
The front-runner said he had been expecting a tighter race with fellow Republican Gary Wright. Though Wright was the fundraising leader by far, thanks largely to support from fellow real estate agents, he only managed about 24 percent of the vote as of Tuesday.
Blake, who joined other Democrats Tuesday at Everett's Labor Temple, led Wright by 672 votes. Though thousands more remain to be counted, Blake was comfortable with his primary showing and chances in the fall.
"I feel pretty good," he said. "There are a lot of votes that will come my way next time around."
Far behind the rest of the pack were Carsten Mullin, a Democrat, with about 9 percent of the total, and Sean Olson, a Libertarian, with about 6 percent.
County Council's District 1 covers most of northern Snohomish County, including Marysville, Arlington, Stanwood, Granite Falls and Darrington. The election is for a four-year term. The job pays about $106,000 per year.
Koster has represented the district for a maximum three consecutive terms and cannot run for re-election.
Klein, 34, is the only candidate in the field with experience in publicly elected office. He won his Arlington City Council seat in 2011. Rather than run again for the city post, this year he opted instead to run for county government.
Klein said his upcoming campaign will focus on economic growth, by making government more efficient, with less red tape to discourage commerce.
"We want to make Snohomish County a great place to do business," he said.
Klein also wants to craft a more coherent message that the county and local cities can present to federal and state governments. Accountability and property rights are other concerns.
Klein, who studied finance in college, works by day as operations manager for a food services company on Microsoft's Redmond campus. He's also an appointed vice chairman of the Snohomish County Planning Commission.
He raised more than $27,000 for his campaign.
Blake, 54, is a city of Arlington utilities supervisor who also has overseen city permitting. He serves as co-chairman of the Stillaguamish Watershed Council, a group focused on improving the area's water quality. He lives along the Stillaguamish River, several miles northeast of Arlington.
A descendent of Snohomish pioneers, Blake's often sought out for his deep familiarity with the local history and landscape.
Blake plans to showcase his 13 years in city government as the campaign moves ahead. He's written regulations, implemented them and walked average folks through them, when they've needed to do business with the government.
"That's the big difference, I've been in local government and done the work," he said.
Blake had raised a little more than $7,000 in campaign cash.
Wright, 69, has owned a downtown Marysville real estate business for more than 40 years.He raised more than $40,000. About half of that amount he donated and loaned to his own campaign. Separately, the Washington Association of Realtors chipped in $25,000 worth of campaign mailers and phone calls supporting him.
Three of the five County Council seats are up for election this year. The two other races also appeared on the ballot, though both candidates will automatically advance.
In District 5, covering east county, incumbent Democrat Dave Somers of Monroe received 56.2 percent of the 15,706 votes counted. Republican challenger Chris Vallo of Lake Stevens received 42.9 percent.
In District 4, covering a parts of south county, Democrat Dave Gossett is term limited and cannot run again. Democrat Terry Ryan, a longtime leader on the Mill Creek City Council, wrapped up 68 percent of the 13,457 votes counted on Tuesday. Republican Bob Reedy of Mountlake Terrace had 31.4 percent of the total.
Countywide, about 55,541 ballots were tallied on primary night, accounting for 16.7 percent of the 333,359 issued. With turnout for odd-year elections historically around 25 percent, that means plenty of counting remains in each race.
Updated vote tallies are expected around 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; email@example.com.
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