Kenton Gartrell, Patricia Byers and Soneya Lund are leading Tuesday’s general election results, putting them in line to join the Yakima City Council.
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Holly Cousens, who ended up in an uncontested race, will serve another term.
Cousens and the three newly-elected members will join Brad Hill, Jason White and Kay Funk on the council.
If the current results stick, the Yakima City Council will lack Latino representation for the first time since the city was forced by a federal judge to adopt a district-based system in 2015 in response to a lawsuit over voter disenfranchisement.
The new system paved the way for three Latina candidates — Dulce Gutierrez, Avina Gutierrez (not related) and Carmen Mendez — to be elected later in 2015. Avina Gutierrez ended up losing her seat during the primary when she ran for reelection in 2017. Dulce Gutierrez and Mendez opted to not run for reelection after serving a four-year term.
Dulce Gutierrez, in discussions on a strong mayor proposal during Tuesday’s Yakima City Council, passionately spoke about the continued roadblocks for people of color who want to serve in office, including herself.
“What you guys don’t want to accept is that my contributions and the contributions of people of color are equally important,” she said.
In Position 1, Gartrell was ahead of Eliana Macias with 60% of the votes, or 213 to 142. The seat was previously held by Gutierrez. This race received heightened attention after Gartrell had a run-in with a Macias supporter at a local bar on the night of the primary election.
Macias said she was disappointed at the initial result and hoped the gap would narrow as more votes are counted in the next few days.
If the result does not go her way, her focus will be making sure Gartrell represents the district.
“I will be at the City Council meetings voicing my concerns and holding him accountable,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to see him to vote in ways the district disagrees with.”
Gartrell said he would like to work with Macias.
“I think there are opportunities to work together,” he said. “There are people who had concerns that maybe I didn’t know about or she knows more about.”
He sees no issues as a non-Latino representing a Latino-majority district.
“I’ve always worked with others. I saw people as human first and foremost,” he said. “We all share the same environment, and we’re all human. I don’t see humans as anything less. I see them as equal. No matter where they come from I want to represent them.”
In Position 3, Byers was ahead of Thomas Sund with 59.1% of the votes or 575 to 391. The seat was previously held by Carmen Mendez, who did not seek reelection.
“I think people see I’m a good listener and that I’m committed to my district, that I’m committed to my city,” Byers said.
Sund said he would support Byers should she ultimately be elected and said he felt that she ran a fair campaign.
He does not plan on running for office again.
“I believe completely that the good old boys club and the special interest groups are still running this city,” he said.
In Position 5, Lund was ahead of Liz Hallock with 58.85% of the votes or 642 to 441. The seat was held by Kathy Coffey, who did not seek reelection.
“All I want to do is grow this community,” Lund said. “And celebrate the things we do really well and tackle those issues we need to work on.”
Hallock said she believes there are still plenty of votes to be counted. However, she believes that the result reflects winning the support of a powerful part of the district’s voter base rather than catering to the needs of the whole.
“The problem in Yakima is that Latino voters have been disenfranchised for so long that candidates have to cater to the interests of the more affluent communities, so the poor neighborhoods languish,” she said.
Cousens easily won reelection for her Position 7 seat. She ended up in an uncontested race after opponent Sarah Towell withdrew from the race last month for personal reasons. But Towell’s name remained on the ballot, and Cousens had nearly 75% of the vote, or 1,093 to 347.
“I’m really thankful for their support and belief in me to carry their voice for the next four years in council,” Cousens said.
The council will be tackling several big issues in the next year, including whether to move to a strong mayor form of government, how to handle the search for a new city manager and how to manage a tight budget in 2020.
The council will also address a long list of priorities — maintaining pools and community centers, improving streets, tackling homelessness, increasing affordable housing, and downtown redevelopment.
Council members also likely will continue to discuss flights chartered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement transporting undocumented individuals into and out of the Yakima Air Terminal at McAllister Field, which started in May.
And the council must continue to navigate personal differences, which often lead to heated arguments during meetings.
Council members serve four-year terms. They receive $1,075 per month for their service.