There are a few hot City Council races on today’s primary election ballot — particularly in Yakima and Wapato — but only about a fourth of eligible Yakima County voters are expected to vote.
As of Monday, 21.5 percent of issued ballots had been cast, and Yakima County Auditor Charles Ross expects to gain only a few more percentage points today, Election Day. His prediction of 25 percent participation is in line with recent odd-year primaries: 24.4 percent in 2017, 26.3 percent in 2015, 25.4 percent in 2013 and 25.8 percent in 2011.
“This election is not much different than previous elections,” Ross said.
There are several interesting local council races, but those don’t generally drive high turnout countywide, he said. Among the most contentious are the six-candidate mayoral race in Wapato, which includes controversial incumbent Dora Alvarez-Roa, and five Wapato City Council races featuring a total of 19 candidates.
In early May, the state Auditor’s Office announced eight findings of gross mismanagement and egregious disregard for open government and accountability in Wapato. Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a civil lawsuit against City Administrator Juan Orozco, accusing him of unlawfully enriching himself, leading Orozco to resign July 19.
In Yakima, three City Council incumbents — Dulce Gutierrez, Carmen Mendez and Kathy Coffey — are not running, and each of their seats has drawn three contenders. The only incumbent running for re-election is Holly Cousens in District 7, where she faces two challengers, Sarah Towell and Tracey Bautista.
There are also contested City Council races in Granger and Sunnyside and a three-candidate race for a Mount Adams school board seat. There is a two-candidate general election dry run in the state’s 13th Legislative District, where Democrat Steve Verhey is challenging incumbent appointee Alex Ybarra, a Republican, for the right to finish the term of Republican Matt Manweller, who resigned following allegations of sexual impropriety.
As for ballot measures, the city of Selah and Yakima County Fire District No. 2 are asking for a levy lid lift, and Selah is asking for a levy to fund maintenance and operation of the city pool.
Mailed ballots must be postmarked no later than today. The Yakima County Auditor’s Office also has 12 ballot drop boxes throughout the county. For more information, visit www.yakimacounty.us/elections or call 509-574-1340.