Councilman Dave Somers leads Snohomish County Council race

EVERETT — Snohomish County Councilman Dave Somers appeared poised to defend his position during the Nov. 3 general election, though early returns in the primary election left his likely challenger in doubt.

Somers, a Democrat from Monroe, grabbed 53 percent of the votes counted as of Tuesday night in the 5th District contest. Republicans Steve Dana of Snohomish and Lake Stevens Mayor Vern Little held 19.2 and 18.6 percent, respectively.

Because an estimated quarter of the votes have yet to be counted, the final totals are bound to change.

Somers wasn’t taking anything for granted.

“I’m really pleased with the numbers, but I have a lot of hard work to do,” he said. “I’ll just keep working hard and I’ll try to do the best thing for the voters.”

He said he was bracing for a negative campaign from outside parties in the fall. Last year developer Dave Barnett sent out mailers portraying Somers as supporting urban sprawl.

The 5th District covers eastern Snohomish County, including Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar and unincorporated areas stretching to the King County line.

The winning candidate will start his job with plenty on his plate; including safety improvements on U.S. 2, urban growth and the future of the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe.

Somers had 7,987 votes as of Tuesday, Dana 2,892 and Little 2,804. Maltby activist Greg Stephens, who announced his withdrawal from the race earlier this month as past criminal charges came to light, still managed to get 1,185 votes, or almost 7.9 percent. Write-in candidates garnered 198 votes, or 1.3 percent.

Those tallies didn’t include ballots mailed or put in drop boxes on Tuesday. County Auditor Carolyn Weikel said turnout would likely be around 25 percent of the county’s 366,947 voters. The county must certify the results by Sept. 2.

On Tuesday night, Dana was at The Hub, the Snohomish restaurant his family has owned for 49 years. About a dozen longtime friends accompanied him.

“It’ll be too close to call,” he said after initial results were released. “It’s nicer to be ahead than behind.”

The 59-year-old has served as mayor and councilman for the city of Snohomish. In his off time from running the family business, he writes a political blog, www.

Little, 55, was with his family at his Lake Stevens home as initial results were released from the primary. If he wins, he plans to retire from his job as a quality manager for Boeing’s 767 project. He is midway through a four-year term as Lake Stevens mayor.

“It’s a close race, exactly as we projected,” he said. “We’ll have to wait until all the ballots come in in the next two or three days and see how it comes out.”

Somers, 56, a fisheries biologist by training, has strong credentials as an environmentalist. In this election cycle, he not only secured an endorsement from Washington Conservation voters, but also from the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties and the Business Alliance of Snohomish County.

Incumbents have had a rough road to re-election in the 5th District. No council member has won two four-year terms in a row there since it changed from a commission to a council in 1980.

Somers won in 1997, but lost to Republican Jeff Sax in 2001. Somers took back the seat from Sax in 2005 by a narrow margin.

The 5th District is the only contested race in this year’s primary. In two other contests, both candidates advanced to the Nov. 3 general election. Under the state’s rules for primary elections, the top two vote-getters move on, regardless of party affiliation.

In the other races for County Council seats, both incumbents coincidentally received nearly 59 percent of the vote and the challengers nearly 41 percent.

Two-term incumbent councilman John Koster, a Republican, is trying to fend off Democrat Ellen Hiatt Watson in the 1st District in the northern part of the county. Watson, a former newspaper reporter and editor, founded the 7-Lakes nonprofit group to keep large-scale developments out of the county’s rural areas. Koster is a former dairy farmer who served in the Legislature.

Another two-term councilman, Democrat Dave Gossett, is trying to keep the 4th District position in the suburbs on the county’s southern end. Gossett has served as Mountlake Terrace mayor and city councilman. His opponent is Republican Bob Meador, a retired Lynnwood fire chief who serves as an elected commissioner with Stevens Hospital and Snohomish County Fire District 1.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465,

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