The race to fill four Yakima City Council seats narrowed Tuesday as initial ballots from the primary election were counted.
Available positions include the seats for districts 1, 3, 5 and 7 — and a couple of races were tight.
One of the primary upcoming decisions the council faces is hiring a new city manager, as Cliff Moore is set to leave the position Aug. 20. Replacement discussions have just begun.
As U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement continues to transport undocumented individuals in and out of Yakima Air Terminal at McAllister Field, conversations over the controversial flights are expected to continue.
Budget decisions and approaches to maintaining city services with limited resources is another key focus of the council, and issues like road completions, crime reduction and gang prevention have been priorities of late.
Council members serve for four years for $1,075 per month.
District 7 Councilwoman Holly Cousens is the only incumbent seeking re-election. She is running against Tracey Bautista and Sarah Towell.
District 1, 3 and 5 positions are held by Dulce Gutierrez, Carmen Mendez and Mayor Kathy Coffey, respectively. None are running for re-election.
The deadline to cast ballots was 8 p.m. Tuesday, with initial counts coming in the same evening. Election results will be certified Aug. 20.
The top two candidates from each race will advance to the general election in November.
An administrator for a local soccer league will square off against a dental assistant in November for District 1 of the Yakima City Council, according to preliminary election results Tuesday night.
Kenton Gartrell, a 28-year-old facilities administrator for Elegant Soccer League, and Eliana Macias, a lead dental assistant, gathered a majority of votes and will advance to the November general election.
Gartrell has received 189 votes, or 46 percent, while Macias followed close behind with 174 or 43 percent, the results showed.
Matthew Sagen trailed with 10 percent, or 39 votes.
Gartrell said he was pleasantly surprised by the support.
“I am the top dog in the race at this time and I feel great coming out on top,” he said. “I knocked on every door, worked hard and the hard work paid off.”
He said he will carry that same effort into November.
He would like to see the police department back up to full staff with 200 police officers and says the city needs to stop spending money on studies, such as the one for the proposed downtown plaza project.
Macias, 28, is focused on improving gang-prevention and interventions programs. She would like to see the Yakima Police Activities League’s center expanded to better serve youths.
“I’m ecstatic. I’m very proud of my campaign. I’m very proud of my door-bellers, my daughter. I want to thank all the voters,” she said Tuesday night. “So excited.”
She said she plans to campaign hard heading into November.
“It was so close in votes,” she said of Tuesday night’s results. “I’m just going to doorbell like there’s no tomorrow. It’s going to be a lot of work but we’re just going to keep going.
City Planning Commissioner Patricia Byers will face retired 911 dispatcher and funeral home director Thomas Sund in November for the District 3 seat, according to preliminary election results.
Tuesday night results showed Byers in the lead with 45 percent of votes — 571 — while Sund followed with 34 percent — 439 votes.
Berenice Ponce trailed with 19 percent, or 245 votes.
Byers’ priorities are bringing the police department up to full staff and replenishing the city’s depleted budget reserves.
She said she’s elated by the support and looks forward to November.
“I have fabulous support in the community from friends and my husband and most of the voters in my district. I am just considerably blessed and humbled.”
Sund said he appreciates all the support he’s received and is confidently looking toward November as well.
“It looks like I’ve got some work cut out for me, but I’m pleased,” he said Tuesday night. “The election isn’t until November, and things can change. But it’s a relief to be over the primary and at least I know where I stand.”
Sund’s priorities are reeling back spending without impacting public safety services such as police and fire. He’s focused on seeing the city pay off outstanding loans and bonds early to free up money for services.
Soneya Lund, Mark Collins and Liz Hallock are vying for the District 5 position. Initial counts show a tight race.
Lund carried 535 initial votes for 37.54 percent. Hallock had 449 votes for 31.51 percent, followed closely by Collins with 438 votes, or 30.74 percent. Three write-ins were cast for 0.21 percent of the vote.
Lund said the initial results were a relief.
“I’m super grateful to all of my supporters and all of the voters who have faith in me,” she said.
Lund, 43, owner and stylist at Saol Salon, entered the race to resolve a perceived reluctance to embrace change on the City Council. If elected, she has said she intends to approach the role as a collaborator with a how-to mentality. She has said she hopes to see the same collaborations between the city, law enforcement and school districts when approaching issues such as gang intervention.
In the lead-up to the November elections, Lund said she’ll continue connecting with voters.
“I’m just going to basically be solidifying my message and reaching out to as many voters as I possibly can, making myself available for questions and ideas and comments, and overall just trying to represent my district in the very best way I can,” she said.
Margins between Hallock and Collins were tighter, with an initial 11 vote difference.
Hallock said as a Democrat, she was not surprised by Lund’s Republican support, but would be ready to lead change in Yakima if she made it to the November vote.
“I know what I’m up against. I’m up against the establishment, and that’s OK, I’m very used to it,” Hallock said. “We’re trying to move Yakima forward. Yakima just needs to be ready for change.”
Some of the changes Hallock is running on include reworking the city’s approach to affordable housing and renewing a sense of safety among undocumented immigrants in the community. The 39-year-old is an attorney and risk management consultant, as well as a certified medical marijuana consultant and small business owner. She sees inclusion, crime reduction and quality of life as her primary focus, if elected to council.
Collins, 35, is director of research and development at 4QTRS, a website design company in Union Gap. He intends to renew trust in government in Yakima if elected, as well as focus on improvements to public safety and infrastructure.
He could not be reached for comment as of press time Tuesday.
Incumbent Holly Cousens led the District 7 vote by a landslide Tuesday evening with 1,182 votes or 68.36 percent. Sarah Towell and Tracey Bautista pushed for second place, with Towell carrying 316 votes or 18.28 percent and Bautista behind with 217 votes, or 12.55 percent.
Cousens, 39, said she is grateful for her supporters.
“I feel really confident and there’s a lot of projects that are going on … that we started (in City Council) that I’m excited to see come to fruition,” she said. “I look forward to working with everyone and being the voice of District 7.”
Cousens was voted into the District 7 position in 2015 with 58.7 percent of the vote. Since being elected, her emphasis has often been on responsibility. In the run-up to the primary election, she said hiring a city manager passionate about Yakima would be a primary task for the council.
Outside of City Council, Cousens teaches business classes at Yakima Valley College and works with Entrust Community Services, helping people with disabilities. She holds two master’s degrees in organizational leadership and business administration from City University of Seattle.
Towell, 31, said if she continues on to the November vote, she would continue campaigning to garner more support, but was proud of the voter turnout, regardless.
“I’m obviously very thrilled and happy that (people) want to vote for me, but the most important thing is that you vote in general,” she said. “Whether it’s for me or someone else, you’re making your voice heard and that’s the most important part.”
Towell’s platform focused on reducing income inequality and improving affordable housing, as well as improving road infrastructure, while 23-year-old Bautista’s was on open government, gang prevention efforts and promoting financial literacy among marginalized communities.
“I hope changes will be made in Yakima for the better, for our community, whether it be (through) me or the next candidate,” Bautista said.