Arlington City Council races remain close

ARLINGTON — As of Thursday, Nov. 7, at 4:46 p.m., at least two of the Arlington City Council races remained extremely close.

In the Position 1 race, challenger Jesica Stickles' 1,246 votes counted, or 49.9 percent of the votes counted, were narrowly edging out incumbent Steve Baker's 1,235 votes counted, or 49.46 percent of the votes counted. Neither candidate had returned phone or email requests for interviews as of press time.

In the Position 2 race, incumbent Chris Raezer and challenger Shery Christianson were tied in the deadest of heats, with each candidate receiving 1,206 votes counted, or 49.73 percent of the votes counted.

When asked how he might have campaigned differently in retrospect, Raezer said, "Perhaps knocked on even more doors," although he expressed pride in the level of door-belling that he achieved in this election, which he said allowed him to listen to the voters' concerns and answer their questions directly.

If Raezer retains his seat, he already knows what his primary priorities will be before he enters his next term.

"Our fire department has aging equipment that is making it more difficult for them provide the level of service our community expects and deserves," Raezer said. "But to pay for it, we need to keep pursuing economic development."

By contrast, Raezer admitted that he wasn't sure what his next step would be if he lost his seat.

"There are numerous ways to serve Arlington, but I haven't thought what those might be," Raezer said.

In the meantime, Raezer expressed his gratitude to the community for its support to date, which he pledged not to let down.

"If I'm re-elected, I'd thank the people for their confidence in me, for allowing me to serve you all for another four years on the City Council," Raezer said. "I am committed to doing my best for Arlington. If I'm not reelected, I'd thank them for allowing me the honor of serving you all for the past eight years. My time on the City Council reinforced what I already knew, which is that Arlington is a very special community."

Looking at her performance so far, Shery Christianson acknowledged that she likely benefitted from the name recognition of her father-in-law, Howard Christianson, the former mayor of Arlington whose deeds on behalf of both the city and the surrounding community were sufficient to earn him the Stillaguamish Senior Center's first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

"He's been involved in this town for 60 years, so I'm sure that helped," said Shery Christianson, who believes she's developed a rapport with her hometown community over the years as well. "I went to school here, and I've worked for Boeing, so I've gotten to know a lot of familiar faces too. It's funny, with as close as this race is, but I sell real estate, and I just recently found out that realtors' groups are trying to get their own into elected office, so now I'm sitting here thinking, 'I wish I'd known about that,'" she laughed.

Although Christianson received a great deal of support from her family and friends, she noted that she never took any steps as formal as choosing one person to be her campaign manager.

"I just did it on my own," Christianson said. "I might run again, but I'm honestly not sure. I suppose it might depend on who else is running."

Regardless of whether she gets elected or not, Christianson wants to see the city's budget in the black, and its fire and police departments maintained at levels that will ensure the safety of herself and her fellow citizens.

"There are definitely still things that I'm learning," said Christianson, who plans to continue attending City Council meetings. "I think citizens would be interested to see what goes on at those meetings."

By contrast, in the Position 7 race, in which there was no incumbent, Jan Schuette's 1,413 votes counted, or 57.67 percent of the votes counted, were leading Mike Hopson's 1,019 votes counted, or 41.59 percent of the votes counted.

"I think the biggest thing that helped me out was the door-belling," said Schuette over the phone on Nov. 6, as she kept her promise to remove as many of her campaign signs as possible on the day after the election. "I've been on every street in Arlington twice, and I've seen things that plenty of people don't have a clue about."

Schuette readily conceded that she was likely also boosted by her name recognition from her role in the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life in Arlington over the years, as well as her name recognition by association from her sister, former Arlington School District Superintendent Linda Byrnes.

Schuette believes that Arlington is poised for significant growth in manufacturing, thanks to advances such as the 777X, as well as in its retail sector, thanks to the numbers of shoppers who have taken the "Buy Local" slogan to heart. However, she's also called for a property tax levy lid lift, to help restore the city's police and fire departments to full staffing levels, especially in the midst of the city's self-confessed problems with homelessness, panhandling and illegal drugs.

"Arlington has the 18th lowest property tax rates of any city in Snohomish County, so we should step up," said Schuette, who praised her fellow candidates for their good conduct during the campaign. "It was really civil and friendly, with no backstabbing, and I've seen how ugly other places can get."

"Jan was upfront about her views and won fair and square," said Hopson, who congratulated Schuette on her apparent win. "I always thought my chances of victory were remote, although there were times when they seemed a bit closer."

Hopson reassured those who did vote for him that he has no plans to leave his current position with the Arlington Airport Commission, which he described as very satisfying. Like Christianson, he also promised to keep attending City Council meetings regardless of what the future holds.

As for the Snohomish County Council District 1 race, in which there was also no incumbent, Republican Ken Klein's 12,754 votes counted, or 55.02 percent of the votes counted, were leading Bill Blake's 10,176 votes counted, or 43.9 percent of the votes counted.

"One of the biggest things that helped me out was getting face-time with the voters," Klein said. "I knocked on 10,000 doors during this campaign. It also helped to be an incumbent on the Arlington City Council, and to have experience in both the private and public sectors. I had the support of business groups and a number of both Republicans and Democrats."

Klein's first priority in office would be to foster economic growth by diversifying Snohomish County's economy, as well as by streamlining its regulatory processes.

"We're already doing a great job of being on the same page as our businesses and the state Legislature, so I'm looking to build on that," Klein said. "We have the infrastructure in place to attract even more talent. I'm excited to get started on working together with my fellow County Council members to make Snohomish County a great place to live, work and play."

While Blake wouldn't rule out another run, what matters most to him is that he gave it a shot this time.

"I'm just really glad I tried," Blake said. "I didn't want to be 70 years old and saying to myself, 'Boy, I wish I'd tried.' You shouldn't hesitate to chase your dreams while you can."

Blake is also grateful for the connections he's made throughout the county and state, on up to receiving calls from Democratic U.S. Representatives Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene.

"I'll always try to do different things," Blake said. "I'm not ready to retire. There's a lot of good things I'm looking forward to doing with the city of Arlington, in storm water and natural resources. I've got a great job here, with good bosses. I knew I was a bit of an underdog in a conservative area like this, but I felt like I had a chance. In the end, I have no regrets. I did it the way I wanted, and I'm glad that both sides kept it positive."

In the Lakewood School District Director District 1 race, incumbent Oscar Escalante's 1,184 votes counted, or 51.84 percent of the votes counted, were leading Michael Blank's 1,076 votes counted, or 47.11 percent of the votes counted.

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