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In one of the most heavily funded Seattle School Board races in recent history, parent activist Sue Peters led consultant Suzanne Dale Estey by about 3 percentage points in first-day returns.

Peters had just over 51 percent of the vote and Dale Estey had about 48 percent with write-in votes making up the difference.

Dale Estey, who raised about $100,000 more than her opponent, said her campaign had a strong get-out-the-vote effort and she wasn’t giving up yet.

“I am really hopeful that we’re going to pull this off,” Dale Estey said. “It was a tough campaign and Sue’s supporters are tenacious and she got her voters out and I commend her for that.”

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Peters said that she thought it would be close, despite the lopsided fundraising and some negative ads last week put out by a group backing Dale Estey.

“The money was a challenge, of course, but we ran a smart, agile campaign,” Peters said. “We ran a campaign with integrity and I think that resonated with Seattle voters.”

In the race for the other open seat, Stephan Blanford, an educational consultant,
was easily beating LaCrese Green, a longtime tutor of children of Ethiopian immigrants. Blanford received nearly 88 percent of the votes in first- day returns. Green raised little money and didn’t seek endorsements for her candidacy.

Incumbent board member Betty Patu ran unopposed for her seat.

The contest between Dale Estey and Peters became one of the most fiercely contested races of the election, with the candidates disagreeing on the effectiveness of the current board.

Dale Estey argued that the board has become distracted by infighting and micromanagement of the administration. Dale Estey, who left a job as Renton’s economic-development director to form her own consulting business, promised to bring the right temperament and professionalism to the job.

Peters defended the board, arguing that the issue of infighting has been hyped by corporate elites backing Dale Estey who want a passive board and favor charter schools and other reforms Peters says undermine public education. Peters argued that she had a record of opposing such reforms, both in her writing as a freelance journalist and in her work as a parent activist.

Dale Estey said she also opposes charter schools, but Peters questioned why advocates of such reforms were pouring so much money into electing her.

By Tuesday, Dale Estey had pulled in about $135,000 compared with almost $36,000 raised by Peters, according to state campaign-finance reports. Blanford had received a little more than $37,000 compared with about $1,700 for Green.

An independent political-action committee backing Dale Estey and Blanford, Great Seattle Schools, raised almost $98,000. As of Tuesday, the group had spent about $95,000, mostly on direct mail pieces and polling to support Dale Estey.

John Higgins: 206-464-3145 or On Twitter @jhigginsST

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