Top (L-R): Nate Nehring, Nicole Ng-A-Qui, Jared M. Mead. Bottom (L-R): Brenda Carrington, Sam Low, Brandy Donaghy.

Top (L-R): Nate Nehring, Nicole Ng-A-Qui, Jared M. Mead. Bottom (L-R): Brenda Carrington, Sam Low, Brandy Donaghy.

3 challengers face long-shot odds in County Council races

Each race has a clear political divide. And each Snohomish County district reliably leans either red or blue.

EVERETT — Two women of color are trying to flip Republican strongholds in Snohomish County’s most expansive council districts.

Meanwhile, in the south county, a Republican is aiming to turn a blue district red.

With Democrats in the two seats that aren’t up for election, voters on Nov. 2 will decide the balance of the council.

District 1

Incumbent Nate Nehring raked in about 66% of the vote in August’s primary, ahead of challenger Nicole Ng-A-Qui’s nearly 28%. (Democrat Richard Yust took 5.8%.)

District 1 spans from Stanwood to Lake Stevens and out to the east end of the county.

Ng-A-Qui studied natural resources management and owns a small arborist business. She said she’s alarmed with how Snohomish County is developing.

With existing codes, Ng-A-Qui said, developers can “just cut everything down to the ground.”

The Stanwood resident wants to require developers to preserve greenery, especially old-growth trees.

Nehring said the Grand Old Party needs to do a better job promoting environmental issues.

“I also think that housing affordability is a big deal. And I know they’re in conflict sometimes,” he said. “I think balance is the most important part of that.”

Nate Nehring (left) and Nicole Ng-A-Qui.

Nate Nehring (left) and Nicole Ng-A-Qui.

Nehring has his eyes on the county’s upcoming comprehensive plan update, which will impact future Snohomish County jobs, transportation and housing.

Both oppose the property tax increase in Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers’ proposed 2022 budget. Both called for more proactive crime prevention. Nehring pointed to his support of the embedded social worker program and capital investments in Everett’s Carnegie Building, now a hub for social services.

Ng-A-Qui said after-school programs and activities for youth are key to preventing crime, addiction and homelessness.

“I’m not coming into this as a politician, but that doesn’t mean I’m not capable of getting up to speed,” she said. “I’ve been the hirer. I’ve been fired. I’ve bought a house. I’ve had to file for bankruptcy. I’ve been through all those financial ups and downs, the employment ups and downs, so I can see things and relate to them from both ends.”

As the daughter of immigrants, Ng-A-Qui said, she talks “to a different demographic than Nate’s going to talk to.”

Nehring has highlighted his work across the aisle. Last year, in the political minority, he served as Snohomish County Council chairman.

District 4

Democrat Jared Mead is defending his seat against Republican Brenda Carrington. In this year’s primary, Mead pulled ahead by more than 30 percentage points. The district includes Mill Creek, Brier and parts of Bothell.

In her candidate statement, Carrington said she wants to “get property taxes under control that are now equal to house payments.” She also listed a goal of “keeping our police force strong” and supporting new businesses.

Jared M. Mead (left) and Brenda Carrington.

Jared M. Mead (left) and Brenda Carrington.

Mead is a former state lawmaker promoting transit-oriented development. He has highlighted racial equity issues on County Council and lists priorities of environmental protections and pandemic recovery in his candidate statement.

Following an appointment to the council, Mead kept his seat in a 2020 race by a vote of 66% to 34%. Carrington was his challenger then, too.

This year, Mead has been winning the campaign contribution race in a landslide: $54,000 to about $7,000.

District 5

Republican Sam Low, a former painting business owner who was elected in 2016, is challenged by Democrat and Navy veteran Brandy Donaghy. It was the tightest of the three races in the primary: 58.1% to 41.7%, with Low in the lead. Donaghy, a south Everett resident, has experience in disaster preparedness and says the county needs to be ready for future emergencies.

With the comprehensive plan on the horizon, Low said, “it’s not a time to be coming onto council and learning how those things operate,” referring to county and city governments.

But Donaghy said new leadership is needed and shouldn’t be deterred by timing. There are always important things going on in local government.

“I do recognize the value of institutional memory,” she said. “I just also recognize the value of bringing new ideas to the table.”

Donaghy is the trustee at her church in Everett and serves on a housing board for the Snohomish County NAACP. She said the council needs to begin reflecting the diverse county.

Sam Low (left) and Brandy Donaghy.

Sam Low (left) and Brandy Donaghy.

“One of the things I believe firmly is that diversity breeds innovation,” she said.

Donaghy said the county’s new Office of Social Justice should be given “a little more attention” and could connect county leaders to underserved communities.

Low said his focus on transportation hasn’t wavered, pointing to his efforts to address the aging U.S. 2 trestle and Highway 522. Low has chaired the state Transportation Improvement Board and served on the Lake Stevens City Council. His experience should be retained on the council, he said.

During his tenure, Low voted to open the door to passenger service at Paine Field, worked to develop Lake Stevens’ skate park and introduced a latex paint recycling program.

Low wants to fulfill the sheriff’s request for 10 more patrol deputies — positions excluded from the county executive’s proposed budget.

Donaghy said she needs more information on the request. But “that’s one of the big differences between Sam Low and I,” she said. “It’s not always about volume.”

“I know that we have a strong system to address those sorts of issues within the jail system, but we don’t want to see people in jail in order to have access to what they need,” she said.

Ballot drop boxes are open until 8 p.m. on Nov. 2.

Claudia Yaw: 425-339-3449;; Twitter: @yawclaudia

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