State Representative Robert Sutherland, left, gives a thumbs-up to passing drivers as he and a few volunteers wave flags and campaign signs along the side of State Route 9 on July 22, in Lake Stevens. Sam Low, right, talks with seniors on July, 20 in Lake Stevens. (Sutherland photo by Ryan Berry / The Herald, Low photo by Kevin Clark / The Herald)

State Representative Robert Sutherland, left, gives a thumbs-up to passing drivers as he and a few volunteers wave flags and campaign signs along the side of State Route 9 on July 22, in Lake Stevens. Sam Low, right, talks with seniors on July, 20 in Lake Stevens. (Sutherland photo by Ryan Berry / The Herald, Low photo by Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Republicans Sutherland, Low locked in tight primary battle

Meanwhile, Everett and Marysville voters were backing Democrats for two open state House seats.

EVERETT — A controversial Republican state lawmaker was fending off the challenge of a fellow Republican Tuesday, but their duel could continue into the fall.

Incumbent Rep. Robert Sutherland was beating Sam Low, a Snohomish County Council member, in an intraparty clash of contrasting political styles and approach.

Sutherland garnered 31.3% to lead the four-way race for the House seat in the 39th Legislative District. Close behind was Low with 26.4%. Under Washington’s top-two primary, both will advance if the results hold.

Democrat Claus Joens held down the third spot with Democrat Karl de Jong fourth.

Meanwhile, Democrats performed surprisingly strong in matchups for two open House seats in the 38th Legislative District following early ballot counts, while a Snohomish County Jail sergeant was on course for a rematch with an incumbent Democrat senator.

And in a race for the public utility board, there were two clear winners in the primary.

39th Legislative District

The Sutherland-Low duel was one of the most intriguing of the primary.

Sutherland, 62, of Granite Falls, is a two-term incumbent. Low, 52, of Lake Stevens, has served on the County Council since 2016, winning a second full term in 2021.

Sutherland, a fiery conservative, won past elections easily. But redistricting carved out communities along U.S. 2 where he dominated and brought in the city of Lake Stevens where Low is popular.

The two men share similar views on issues. But their styles differ immensely. Sutherland has reveled in attention stirred by his verbal jabs at Democrats, and sometimes Republicans. His embrace of former President Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories also alienated him from some in his party. Low positions himself as a moderate who seeks compromise in the legislating process. He boasts of befriending Democrats and Republicans alike.

If Tuesday’s results hold, the two men will be able to continue their intraparty fight into November.

Joens, 59, of Marblemount, a high school teacher, made unsuccessful challenges of Sutherland in 2020 and Republican state Sen. Keith Wagoner of Sedro Woolley in 2018.

de Jong, 56, served one term on the Sedro-Woolley City Council. He lost his bid for re-election last year.

In the contest for the other House seat, Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan, 72, topped the field with 42.5% followed closely by Democrat Jessica Wadhams, 36, of Lake Stevens with 40.4%. Republican Tyller Boomgaarden, 29, of Darrington received 11.4% and Independent Kathryn Lewandowsky, 63, of Arlington had 5.7%.

38th Legislative District

Voters got a rare opportunity this year to fill both House seats following departures of Democrat Reps. Emily Wicks and Mike Sells. The district encompasses Everett, Tulalip and part of Marysville.

On Tuesday, two Democrats were leading the four-way race to succeed Wicks though that could change in future vote counts.

Democrat Julio Cortes had 40.2% followed by his fellow party member, Daryl Williams, with 21.1%. Republican Gary Kemp was a close third with 20.6%. Republican Bert Johnson was in fourth with 17.9%.

Cortes, 36, works in communications and economic development for the city of Everett. He’s seeking elected office for the first time. Cortes formerly worked for Cocoon House. Encouraging local governments to allow more types of housing can help with the real estate crunch and create pathways to helping the unhoused, he said.

Williams, 63, a longtime employee of the Tulalip Tribes, is making his first run for office. Drug abuse, environmental restoration, homelessness and mental health services are areas he wants to address. Solutions, he said, will come from those already working on these issues in the community

Kemp, 51, an electrician and former union leader, lost a bid for a Marysville City Council position in 2019. Affordability and public safety are Kemp’s top priorities. He wants the state to suspend the gas tax and lower the state sales tax by 1% to help ease the impact of inflation on residents. He also wants to boost funding for public safety.

Johnson, 64, was making his fourth run for state office.

Marysville City Councilmember Mark James and Everett City Councilmember Mary Fosse will square off in November for the chance to succeed Sells.

Fosse received 57.6% and James had 37% in Tuesday’s ballot count. Libertarian David Wiley, 45, collected 2.9%. Christopher Elliott, 44, had 2.4%.

Fosse, 39, elected to the Everett council in November, was Wicks’ legislative aide. She has emphasized the need for better-connected state policies to address cost of living, education, homelessness and social infrastructure.

James, 60, won his second term on the Marysville council in November. He ran unsuccessfully for a House seat in 2020. He wants to pursue statewide tax relief through temporary reductions in the gas tax and the state’s portion of the sales tax. He also wants to revisit elements of policing reform laws passed the last two years.

Meanwhile, Everett Democrat Sen. June Robinson, 63, the target of $170,000 in negative ads from Republican forces, captured 59.5%. Republican Bernard Moody was ahead of fellow Republican Anita Azariah of Everett, 28.7% to 11.6% for the second spot.

Both Republicans were looking for their first political win. Azariah, 54, vice chair of the Snohomish County Republican Party, lost her race for a public hospital board in 2021. Moody, 62, a sergeant at the Snohomish County Jail, lost to Robinson in 2020.

Snohomish PUD

Tanya Olson and Ken Maertens appeared to be headed to a November showdown for a seat on the Snohomish County Public Utility District Board of Commissioners.

Olson collected 63.6% followed by Maertens with 21.3% and Jordan Sears with 14.7%.

At stake is a six-year term on the Board of Commissioners representing District 3, which spans an area bounded by I-5 on the west and county lines on the south and east. It takes in parts of Everett and Lake Stevens, as well as the cities of Snohomish, Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar and Index.

The three-person commission sets rates for 360,000 electric and 23,000 water customers, and they craft policies for the state’s second-largest publicly owned utility. Commissioners earn $2,567 a month.

Olson, 75, of Everett, is seeking a fourth term. She said her 40 years of experience with the district — 22 as an employee who rose to assistant general manager and 18 as commissioner — give her a greater understanding of issues the board tackles.

Maertens, 65, a Monroe resident and a mechanical engineer, said his engineering background and program management skills make him best able to guide SnoPUD’s research and development as it prepares for future demands.

Sears, 23, a Gold Bar City Council member, works for a financial institution. He said he would focus on elevating the commission’s profile by getting commissioners more engaged in the community.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623;; Twitter: @dospueblos.

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