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Price Johnson leading in race for Island County District 1

History is in the making on South Whidbey.

Democrat Helen Price Johnson is poised to become the first woman ever to serve on the Island County Board of Commissioners, and is leading Republican incumbent Phil Bakke in early vote returns.

Price Johnson was ahead, 15,550 votes to Bakke's 13,484.

"That's a good start," Price Johnson said. "It makes me cautiously optimistic."

The big issues in the race revolved around the culture of Island County government, affordable housing, pollution in Holmes Harbor, the county budget and Bakke's vow for "no new taxes," which was criticized by some because Bakke said the promise was only good for one year, and didn't include his support of a pending 1-percent increase on property taxes.

Bakke, 38, also stressed his extensive experience in county government, including his 12 years as head of the planning department.

Price Johnson, 50, has been a member of the South Whidbey school board since 2001 and was president of the board from 2003 through 2005. She has touted her wide-ranging involvement in the community and her small business background experience with Price/Johnson Construction, the home-building company she owns with her husband. She vowed to help small businesses, and said a vote for her would help break up the "good old boys" network at the county seat in Coupeville.

Price Johnson dominated in the August primary, collecting 46 percent of the vote in the four-way race.

Bakke, by contrast, struggled for the second spot on the November ballot in a squeaker against no-party candidate Curt Gordon. Bakke bested Gordon by 52 votes to land on the ballot.

Price Johnson outspent Bakke in the race. She raised $84,306 and spent $82,026, according to campaign finance records on file with the state Public Disclosure Commission. Bakke raised $63,567 and spent $54,247.

If Democrat Angie Homola maintains her lead against Republican Mac McDowell in the District 2 race, history will be made twice over.

Homola will be the second woman to join the board of commissioners, and Democrats will control all three seats on the board for the first time in history.

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