Eron Berg is leading Kevin Loy in the race for Skagit Public Utility District commissioner by 16 percentage points, according to initial results.
"I felt like we got a lot of support from the community," Berg, city supervisor and attorney for the city of Sedro-Woolley, said after first hearing the results.
Kevin Loy, insurance broker and former Sedro-Woolley city councilman, said he was disappointed at early results, but is still hopeful he can bounce back after the next count.
"We'll just have to wait and see," he said.
If Tuesday's numbers hold, Berg said he will have a lot of work ahead of him learning how the PUD operates.
One of his early moves, he said, will be to get cameras into the PUD board of commissioners meetings, something he said could help the district be more accountable.
"At the very least, it would be a small gesture toward transparency ... and open government," he said.
The two are competing for the seat that currently belongs to Jim Cook. After 12 years on the board, Cook did not seek re-election.
Berg led in the August primary by 3 percentage points, with 37 percent of the vote.
If elected, Berg said he hopes to increase the district's investment in fiber optic infrastructure, laying the groundwork for a high-speed internet network that could blanket the whole county.
Loy said the PUD should devote the whole of its resources to maintaining infrastructure that delivers water to customers, and that fiber optic cable is available through private companies.
"The government shouldn’t be competing with private businesses,” Loy said at a candidates forum.
Commissioners have frequent shouting matches at public meetings, and both candidates have said they will make an effort to restore public trust in PUD management.
"The problem isn't the pipe in the ground. It's the commission," Berg said at a candidates forum, adding that recording public meetings on video might rein in the commissioners.
Loy said he has met personally with all three members of the board, and that the remaining two will be willing to work with him.
An estimated 15,000 ballots remain to be counted, according to the Skagit County Auditor's Office. The next count will be released Thursday.