Elections assistant Keri Gompf organizes ballots to be sorted on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Elections assistant Keri Gompf organizes ballots to be sorted on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Sutherland trails in Snohomish County primary; Somers, Dunn lead

Snohomish County voters favored incumbents based on early primary returns Tuesday.

EVERETT — Election denier and former state Rep. Robert Sutherland appeared to lose his bid for Snohomish County auditor in the primary Tuesday, as he trailed a nonpartisan and a Democrat with experience in the office.

Voters appeared to favor experience in the election, based on early voting data. Incumbents lead the executive, auditor and council primary races.

The top two finishers in primary elections move on to November’s general election.

County Executive

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, a two-term incumbent, was well on his way to advancing.

Somers, a Democrat, will face Republican challenger Bob Hagglund.

Somers received 52.5% of the early results, with Hagglund in second at 36.7%. Democrat Christopher Garnett trailed with 10.6%.

“Early ballot results are in, and I am excited to have won more than 52% of the vote! I’m grateful for the support so far, and validation of my efforts to build safe, supportive communities in Snohomish County,” Somers said in an emailed statement. “We still have more work to do for the upcoming General Election, but the result tonight is a great foundation for success in November.”

Somers, a career fisheries biologist who lives in Monroe, is vying for this third term. He won against John Lovick with 56% of the vote in 2015, then ran unopposed in 2019. Among his priorities for the next term are maintaining the county’s “identity as a leader in aerospace manufacturing and technology” as well as continuing to push for clean energy, habitat restoration and climate policies.

Dave Somers

Dave Somers

There is a three-term limit on the position.

Hagglund, a data scientist from Everett, said he was a little “disappointed” in the total voter counts, but “pleased overall with the outcome.”

Just over 21% of ballots sent out were returned ahead of the primary. More vote drops were expected over the next several days. Hagglund said he’s now focused on reaching moderate Democrats ahead of the general election.

“I think the people who we need convinced are the people, the majority of people are in the middle,” Hagglund said Wednesday. “They don’t really care a lot about politics, they just want to live their lives. I’ve been spending my time talking to them.”

His other priorities include getting unhoused people off the streets. He said he was running because he wants to see more public interest policy instead of political policy.

“I really want to shine on light on the fact that our priorities are misplaced in government,” Hagglund said. “It’s not a blame game.”

He pointed to the $20 million Kayak Point County Park project, which officials said will strengthen the park against sea level rise caused by climate change. Hagglund feels money could be spent better elsewhere.

“The example I’ve used several times is that the money used to raise the level of Kayak Point County Park so it doesn’t get inundated by rising sea levels while we have people living on the streets in despair that just, I mean — I don’t know about you, but I don’t see any measurable increase in Puget Sound’s water levels,” he said. “I mean the tides are pretty dramatic, but I mean overall levels, I just don’t think are an issue at the moment. I’m more concerned with those people who need help.”

Garnett worked in real estate in Lake Stevens after owning numerous small businesses in Snohomish County for the past decade. He said he would like to improve the “business environment” and would like to ensure access to housing for all.

From left, Robert Sutherland, Garth Fell and Cindy Gobel.

From left, Robert Sutherland, Garth Fell and Cindy Gobel.

Auditor

Tuesday’s results could set up a rematch between incumbent Garth Fell and Cindy Gobel for county auditor, though the battle for second place was close.

Fell, who is running as nonpartisan, garnered 41% of the initial count.

“I’m impressed by the strong showing for sure and certainly grateful for voters that supported me in this election,” Fell said. “I know it’s just the first step, we’ve got more ballots to count in this election.”

Fell has been the county’s auditor since 2020 and has overseen elections for the past 15 years.

“I think voters were probably looking towards experience in many of the races. I think you saw incumbents do fairly well, certainly at the county level,” Fell said. “I think that’s probably, again, a nod towards experience.”

Cindy Gobel, a Democrat, was in second with 32.6% of the vote. Sutherland, a Republican, was third with 26.3%.

Gobel lost to Fell by around 4,200 votes in the last election. She felt the early numbers were “great” but was waiting to see what more ballot drops hold.

“Typically on election week we have to wait until Friday, until most of the numbers are in, to see where things land,” Gobel said Wednesday. “I’m looking forward to Friday.”

In addition to elections, the auditor also oversees animal services, licensing and recording.

Gobel, a Marysville resident, has a long career in the field, working in records with Western Washington University’s police department, then 12 years for Snohomish County. She also spent five years in the secretary of state’s office.

“I think that when you’re really passionate about a field, you tend to stay in it, you tend to try again,” Gobel said. “I ran in 2019 and I’m still passionate about this position. So I am here this year again.”

Sutherland, a Granite Falls resident, is an Air Force veteran and former biochemist. Last year, he lost his seat in the state House to Sam Low, a more moderate conservative.

During his two terms in the House, Sutherland sponsored four bills surrounding elections. He was also reprimanded for berating state Capitol security last year.

Sutherland said in 2020 he was not convinced that election was “fair” and that he was not sure “we can find out the true outcome.”

From left, Megan Dunn, Kristina Mitchell and Georgia Fisher.

From left, Megan Dunn, Kristina Mitchell and Georgia Fisher.

County Council Position 2

In the battle for Snohomish County Council Position 2, incumbent Democrat Megan Dunn led two conservative challengers handily with Georgia Fisher poised to face her in November.

All three candidates on the ballot are women. Position 2 represents Mukilteo, Everett and Tulalip.

Early returns had Dunn, the lone woman currently on the council, with 59.6%. Fisher, a Republican, was running second with 32.8% of the vote. Kristina Mitchell was in third with 7.6%.

“It’s better than I expected. We’re feeling really optimistic about the numbers,” Dunn said. “Of course we want to wait for all the votes to be counted. … I’ll say I’m proud we ran a positive campaign and it’s resonating so much with voters.”

The council is currently split, with Dunn’s seat representing a tie-breaking vote between progressives and conservatives on council.

Dunn won the 2019 election for the seat. She’s in her first term.

“Voters want to see real solutions to public safety, homelessness and housing, and we saw that clearly in the votes casted,” Dunn said.

Fisher grew up in California before moving to Snohomish County in her 30s for a Boeing job. She came out of retirement to challenge Dunn. Fisher has been involved with leadership in local Republican circles since 2019 and served two terms as the 21st Legislative District’s Republican Party chair.

“In short, I’m pleased with the results. I’m happy to be in the top tier and move along to the general election,” Fisher said. “I have good supporters helping me and I’m very pleased that the voters came out to vote for a conservative candidate.”

Fisher is against low-barrier housing, calling it “equivalent to no-barrier entry” and objects to the Housing First model, a belief people should be housed even if they’re still struggling with addiction. Her platform is focused on tackling crime and safety concerns in the county.

“People turned out to vote in the issues — issues especially surrounding the un-homed and addicts and treatment for them and cleaning up our county,” Fisher said.

Mitchell, who ran as a nonpartisan, has worked on at least nine Republican campaigns ranging from U.S. Senate to state governor.

Mitchell was running on public safety issues and wants to get “more units on the road.”

Jordan Hansen: 425-339-3046; jordan.hansen@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jordyhansen.

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