UPDATE: Island County commissioner's race a battle between Bakke and Gordon for second spot on ticket
By MICHAELA MARX WHEATLEY
South Whidbey Record Island Life
September 22, 2008 · Updated 12:12 PM
It's too early to call, but first vote counts indicate that incumbent Republican Phil Bakke and no-party candidate Curt Gordon will duke it out for the second spot on the November ballot, while Democrat Helen Price Johnson took an early lead in the primary election.
The other Republican candidate Reece Rose finds herself in last place.
With 35.77 percent counted, Price Johnson got 3,191 votes with 6,979 votes counted in the race.
Incumbent Republican Commissioner Phil Bakke was in second, with 1,413 voters.
No-party candidate Curt Gordon was third in the four-way race, with 1,333 votes.
Republican Reece Rose has 1,036 votes.
While her supporters milled around a laptop and bemoaned the lack of vote results for nearly 30 minutes, Price Johnson kept busy by bringing in plates of cold cuts, fruit and desserts from a car in the parking lot at Neil's Clover Patch Cafe.
When asked why she wasn't hovering over a computer herself, she laughed and said she would be able to easily figure out how the vote was going by the noise in the room.
Finally, the computer screen revealed the long-awaited results.
"We were hoping for something that clear," Price Johnson said. "But we didn't know with all mail-in, the top-two primary and a four-way race."
"I'm glad that we do. It's nice," she added.
District 1 traditionally leans toward Democrats, she said. She will now target swing districts and traditional Republican strongholds.
First stop: Oak Harbor on Wednesday, she said.
Price Johnson added that these areas of Island County are ready for her message and that the primary results in the District 2 encourage her, where Democrat Angie Homola had 1,448 votes to Republican incumbent Mac McDowell's 1,796.
"I'm pleased with Angie Homola's result. That indicates that voters would be receptive of my message," she said.
If Price Johnson's success transfers beyond district borders and she wins the support of all of Island County, she will be the first woman commissioner in the county's history and Democrats will gain the majority on the three-member board of commissioners.
Even though Price Johnson worked with a professional consultant on her campaign, she credits her supporters for her success and the district's desire for change.
Even though she has gathered almost as many votes by herself as her opponents combined, she said there is no time for a break from campaigning.
"We have 70 days till the general election," she said.
"It's just a milepost in a long-distance race."
Curt Gordon is only 80 votes behind incumbent Bakke after the first count.
Gordon said he is pleased with the results, adding that he has high hopes to pass Bakke.
"We're not winning, but we're not that far out of second place," Gordon said Tuesday night.
"It looks promising," he said from China City in Freeland, where he awaited the results with some supporters.
"A lot of party line voters vote early. Independent, open-minded thinkers vote later," he said, adding that he is counting on their votes.
However, he has no doubt that his "People, not politics" message was heard.
"What it comes down to is that we have sophisticated voters in this district. They studied the candidates, studied the ballot and voted for the person not the party," he said.
"It's a statement about our district being progressive enough to put votes to a party-unaffiliated candidate."
"We definitely made a statement," Gordon said.
Rose finds herself trailing 292 votes behind Gordon.
"I'm dragging behind, what can I say?" Rose said.
Rose added that the race is still close, considering that more ballots will arrive in Coupeville in the days following the primary.
"That could change," she said of the narrow gap between herself, Bakke and Gordon.
"That's what they have today. They have to open their mail tomorrow," she said.
"There will be more coming in tomorrow and the next day."
Rose also said that as many as 20 percent of the ballots cast are mailed at the last minute.
Bakke declined to comment when called by a reporter Tuesday night.
The four-way race focused on county finances, affordable housing and property taxes.
A total of 15,928 votes were counted Tuesday night.Contact South Whidbey Record Island Life Michaela Marx Wheatley at email@example.com or (360) 221-5300.