MILL CREEK — The ballot count never trended in the right direction for state Rep. Mark Harmsworth of Mill Creek.
On Thursday night, the two-term Republican conceded to Democrat Jared Mead in one of the most hotly contested legislative races in Snohomish County this year.
“I called and congratulated him. I want him to serve the 44th (Legislative District) well,” Harmsworth said. “We have a lot of issues to deal with in the 44th and I am here to help bring both sides together.”
Mead, a Mill Creek City Councilman, had 52.1 percent of the vote Friday. With the win, he earned a two-year term representing the communities of Mill Creek, Lake Stevens and Snohomish.
When he takes office in January, the 27-year-old Mead will be the county’s youngest state representative since Marko Liias, who was 26 when was appointed to a House seat in 2007. Liias, a Democrat, is now a senator and won re-election Tuesday.
On Friday, he thanked Harmsworth for phoning.
“It became really real after the phone call,” he said. “I took one of those big diaphragm-expanding breaths and let out a real deep sigh of relief.”
Mead said he will resign from the City Council before taking office in January. However, he said, he would like to serve the rest of the year as the council wraps up work on a city budget and wrestles with hiring of a new city manager.
Once in Olympia, he said he’d like to be on the House Transportation Committee because that’s where some of the most important issues for the district will be debated.
“Right now, I’m just excited to make the transition from candidate to legislator,” he said.
In another legislative contest, Democrat Dave Paul continues to lead state Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, in the 10th District.
Paul held a roughly 300-vote lead on Hayes in the latest round of ballot counting Friday.
If the results hold, the Snohomish County delegation in the state House will consist of 11 Democrats and three Republicans. In the Senate, five Democrats and two Republicans will represent residents of the state’s third most populous county.
The 44th District attracted much attention and money from forces across the political spectrum. It is because it is one of the few where voters had elected Republicans and Democrats to represent them in the Legislature.
Mead reported $237,381 in contributions and $208,965 in spending through Friday, according to state Public Disclosure Commission records. Of the total, roughly $131,000 came from the House Democratic Campaign Committee and Democratic Party organizations.
Mead also benefited from independent political committees which spent nearly $100,000 on ads supporting him and $26,386 opposing the incumbent.
Harmsworth raised $150,372 and had spent $141,488, according to reports filed with the commission. His total included roughly $54,000 from the House Republican Caucus and state Republican Party.
Harmsworth, 49, a native of England, is a former Mill Creek City Councilman who won his seat in 2014 and was re-elected in 2016.
He’s been an ardent critic of tolling on I-405 between Lynnwood and Bellevue. He made opposition to use of tolls to pay for replacing the U.S. 2 trestle into a major plank of his campaign this year.
In two terms, he’s emerged as one of the only Snohomish County officials to consistently and publicly criticize Sound Transit, particularly its method for assessing car tab fees. He backed bills to lower the fees and authored legislation to switch oversight of the transit agency to an independently elected governing board.
Harmsworth said in an interview Thursday that voters he met “appreciated what I’ve done locally.” But the national political climate energized Democrats in this battleground and created a headwind that he could not overcome, he said.
While Harmsworth is out now, he said he may not be done with politics.
“I am just taking a break. I want to focus on my family,” he said. “I am not ruling out any other political aspirations.”