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Forlenza falls; Byers prevails, Hughes leads Ayers in Dist. 2
Former councilwoman Lovel Pratt and county council incumbent Bob Jarman grabbed the lions share of votes cast in Tuesday's District 1 primary, leaving another newly elected council incumbent, Marc Forlenza, the odd man out in the three-way race for the newly formed council position representing San Juan and its surrounding outer islands.
Unseated by Jarman in November, Pratt collected 47.9 percent of 4,816 ballots tallied, as of Tuesday, in the District 1 contest, 2,253 votes in total, to advance to the April 23 general election. With 33.3 percent of Tuesday's total, or 1,520 votes, Jarman gained an insurmountable lead over Forlenza, 914 votes, or 19 percent, sealing a berth on the April ballot as well.
An estimated 1,000 ballots have yet to be counted, according to San Juan County Elections officials. A large percentage of those ballots were cast on Orcas Island, according to Auditor Milene Henley, manager of local elections.
Meanwhile, Lisa Byers advanced easily into the general election, garnering 47.7 percent of Tuesday's tally in the three-way race for the newly formed District 2 council position. Byers, director of the Orcas Island-based affordable housing group, Of People and Land, or OPAL, and a first-time candidate for political office, garnered 2,286 of 4,816 votes counted in Tuesday initial District 2 primary election results.
County council incumbent Rick Hughes held a narrow lead over political newcomer Greg Ayers as of Tuesday's tally, with 114 votes separating the two council hopefuls. Hughes, owner of Ray's Pharmacy, and elected to the council in November, had 1,312 votes, or 27 percent of Tuesday's tally, versus Ayers' 1,198 votes, or 25 percent.
The Feb. 12 primary election follows on the heels of changes to the San Juan County home-rule charter approved by voters in November, which reduced the size of the county council from six elected officials to three, redrew council legislative districts from six to three as well, and instituted countywide elections for each of the three newly created council posts. In addition, changes to the charter turned those council offices into full-time positions, with responsibility for both county legislative duties and its day-to-day management. Full-time council members will earn $75,000 a year, plus benefits.
First-time candidate Brian McClerren is challenging county council chairman Jamie Stephens in the District 3 general election.
As of Tuesday, with 5,082 ballots counted, voter turnout in Tuesday's election equals slightly more than 42 percent, with a total of 11,998 voters registered countywide.
In the only other issue in the Feb. 12 primary, Lopez voters overwhelmingly approved a property tax hike of 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for the island's fire district. The measure garnered 78 percent of 841 ballots tabulated Tuesday, with "yes" votes outweighing "no" votes 648 to 185. Voter turnout as of Tuesday's tally equaled 43 percent.