Three candidates new to local politics are leading in the contested races for Sedro-Woolley City Council, according to preliminary election results.
The candidates in the lead Tuesday are ahead by seven votes, 19 votes and 49 votes.
In the race for the council position representing the city as a whole, Sedro-Woolley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Pola Kelley is leading with 51 percent of the votes, compared to Upper Skagit Indian Tribe police officer Jared Couch’s 49 percent.
The difference between the two was 19 votes as of 9 p.m. Tuesday.
“I’m guessing 19 votes is a pretty small margin, but I think there’s probably another couple hundred votes to come in,” Couch said after seeing the results. “I’m definitely still hopeful.”
If the results turn in his favor after all ballots are counted, Couch said his first priority as a new council member would be to meet with city staff and officials to get up to speed on city priorities and projects.
Couch also said that after the close race in the primary election in August — when a difference of two votes kept him in the race — the close race Tuesday was not a surprise.
While he hopes to be elected, he said he is confident that Kelley would also serve the city well.
“I think whatever way it goes at this point is a win for the community because I think we’re both quality candidates and have the best of intention,” Couch said.
Kelley could not be reached Tuesday night for comment.
During her campaign, Kelley said she thinks the city’s focus should continue to be on redeveloping the SWIFT (Sedro-Woolley Innovation for Tomorrow) Center where the Northern State Hospital formerly operated, building a new library and improving parks.
Challenger J. Dennis O’Neil is leading in the race against incumbent Councilwoman Brenda Kinzer by seven votes.
Kinzer was elected in November 2013 to represent Ward 3.
“Woo-hoo ... I think that’s pretty neat,” O’Neil said Tuesday when he learned he was in the lead.
If he remains in the lead after the rest of the ballots are counted, O’Neil said his priority as a council member would be to ensure the public has more input in how the city is run.
“I will enjoy finding out what’s going on a little bit more than I do now and I think it would be good to find a way to get more people to come to the meetings ... and tell the council what direction they want the town to go,” he said.
Kinzer could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
During her campaign, Kinzer said her priority if reelected would be to continue to look for ways to bring revenue into the city without increasing taxes.
With about 65 percent of the votes as of 9 p.m. Tuesday, Karl de Jong appears likely to become Sedro-Woolley’s next City Council member representing Ward 6.
Harold Beitler has about 35 percent of the votes.
During his campaign, de Jong said he wants to help the city manage growth and keep city operations running smoothly.
While the city wants to bring in new businesses to provide local jobs and tax revenue, growth requires infrastructure and city services, he said.
He could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.