Election in county, state could bring significant changes
In races in the county and state, the outcomes could reshape government and raise larger issues.
And some races around the state that could have national implications.
In Snohomish County, three of the five seats on the County Council are in contention -- and at least two new faces will join the council.
Councilmen John Koster and Dave Gossett are being forced to give up their seats because of term limits.
Ken Klein, a Republican who is an Arlington city councilman, and Bill Blake, a Democrat who is an Arlington utilities supervisor, are competing for Koster's seat representing District 1, which covers most of north Snohomish County.
In south Snohomish County, Republican Bob Reedy faces Democrat Terry Ryan for Gossett's seat in District 4. Ryan is a former Mill Creek mayor and city councilman who works commercial real estate with Seattle firm Kidder Mathews. Reedy is a lifelong resident of south county who worked in customer service for Mill Creek-based Jaco Environmental, but said he recently took a job in marketing. The district includes Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, Brier and north Bothell, as well as unincorporated areas such as Alderwood Manor and Silver Firs.
In District 5, in southeast Snohomish County, incumbent Dave Somers is running against Chris Vallo of Lake Stevens, a real estate broker seeking his first term in public office. Vallo ran for county assessor and lost in 2011.
The district covers eastern Snohomish County, including Snohomish, Monroe, Maltby, Sultan, Gold Bar and Index.
Dozens of other candidates are running in races in cities around the county. In Lynnwood, Mayor Don Gough is being challenged by Nicola Smith, a dean at Edmonds Community College.
In Mukilteo, Mayor Joe Marine is going against City Councilwoman Jennifer Gregerson.
Stanwood and Monroe will both have new mayors. Stanwood Mayor Dianne White is stepping aside. Les Anderson, who served on Stanwood's council from 1993 to 2001, and current Councilman Leonard Kelley hope to step into her job. Anderson is employed by Mill Creek's public works department. Kelley is retired.
In Monroe, Mayor Robert Zimmerman also decided against seeking re-election. Ed Davis, who has served on the City Council for two years, and Geoffrey Thomas, a former city council member who served six years in 2009, are seeking Zimmerman's job.
Davis works as a surface security inspector for the federal Transportation Security Administration. Thomas works as senior legislative analyst for the Snohomish County Council.
As of Friday afternoon, 65,740 ballots had been returned or about 15.7 percent of the 419,275 ballots mailed to voters countywide.
Around the state, in SeaTac, a campaign backed by labor unions seeks to raise the minimum wage to $15 for many workers. In Whatcom County, an unprecedented amount of outside money is influencing an election that may shape whether the area becomes home to the largest coal shipping terminal on the West Coast.
Statewide, voters will decide whether to label genetically modified foods in a campaign that has drawn hefty donations from food industry businesses.
Todd Donovan, a professor of political science at Western Washington University, said the unique thing about this year's ballot, which voters must postmark by Tuesday, is that a random assortment of campaigns has drawn so much attention from outside the state as organizations seek to use this year's vote as leverage.
"Both sides are looking at what happens in Washington. It's going to make it harder or easier to advance their policy goals," Donovan said.
In Seattle, incumbent Mike McGinn and opponent Ed Murray, a state senator, have waded into national discussions about the minimum wage, coal and gun control. Meanwhile, a state Senate race that could shape the balance of power in the chamber has become the most expensive legislative contest in state history.
Secretary of State Kim Wyman is forecasting a fairly average off-year voter turnout of 51 percent, well below the 81 percent last year when the presidential race and major issues like gay marriage and marijuana legalization were on the ballot.
Donovan said the issues this year have created an interesting dynamic. In Whatcom County, for example, voters in the county council race are weighing whether the proposed increase in coal trains through the region will add jobs, affect traffic and have any local environmental impacts.
But the coal industry and environmental groups that are funding the campaigns see something much bigger, Donovan said. To them, it's a battle over issues such as climate change and business.
"They're thinking globally, but here it's much more about how it affects people locally," Donovan said.
Meanwhile, labor groups have been pushing nationally this year for a $15 minimum wage, and the SeaTac initiative could provide those proponents a success story they can use as a foundation. The initiative to label genetically modified foods has become a $30 million campaign, with most of the money coming from food industry groups in opposition of the measure.
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