UPDATE: 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. Price Johnson was leading with 53 percent of the vote to Bakke's 46 percent.

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

Bakke was not ready to call the race over.

"There are a considerable number of ballots to be counted. I look forward to seeing what the results are when we continuing counting."

"I think it's too soon to say it's over," Bakke said. "I have no idea of what the makeup of the votes that were counted so far, and where they are from."

"I thank the voters," he added. "And we'll see what happens in the coming days."

So far, 31,201 ballots have been processed, and an estimated 6,500 remain to be counted.

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.

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