User-experience researcher Jeremy Barksdale had a significant lead over Stephanie Walter in the race for the Position 3 seat, the only open seat on the Bellevue City Council, in Tuesday night’s initial election returns.
Meanwhile, incumbents in the three other City Council seats were leading in early returns.
Barksdale had 62 percent of the vote in early returns over Walter, a finance professional at Overlake Hospital and a former Planning Commission chair who, like her opponent, raised roughly $82,000 in the race.
Additional ballots will be counted in the coming days.
Barksdale, who moved to Washington from Virginia six years ago, works at Bellevue-based Unity Technologies, a game-development platform. He is a former chair of the Bellevue Planning Commission and a board member of Fuse Washington, self-described as the state’s “largest progressive organization.”
He said Tuesday night he looked forward to “keeping Bellevue affordable and engaging the community and modernizing the city.” He hopes to improve how city employees use data and technology, while also lowering day-to-day costs for people who live below the city’s $105,000 median income.
The Position 3 seat was vacated by Mayor John Chelminiak, who decided not to run for another term. Members of the Bellevue City Council pick the city’s mayor among themselves; the council member chosen serves as mayor for two years.
In the other races, incumbent Councilmembers Janice Zahn, John Stokes and Jennifer Robertson were running for their second, third and fourth terms, respectively, and had strong leads over their opponents, based on Tuesday night’s early returns.
In the Position 1 race, Stokes, who has served for eight years on the City Council, including two years as mayor, was beating Holly Zhang, who owns a specialty jewelry store in Bellevue, with 69 percent of the vote. Stokes, a retired attorney, nabbed nearly every key endorsement during his campaign.
Reached Tuesday, Stokes said he was excited to continue working on addressing affordable housing and homelessness, as well as helping to usher in new development. “We just have the opportunity to do something great,” he said.
Incumbent Zahn had 67 percent of the vote over challenger J.D. Yu in the race for the Position 5 seat. Zahn was elected to the City Council in the 2017 midterm election. Zahn had more endorsements but was outspent by Yu, who raised more than $66,000, with half coming from relatives, friends and supporters outside Bellevue.
“I think what the election shows is that Bellevue is headed in the right direction,” Zahn said. She added that Barksdale, should he maintain his lead in the Position 3 race, would bring a great perspective to council because of his job in user experience and his ability to work with people.
Robertson had a little more than 63 percent of the vote in the Position 7 race over prominent civil-rights attorney and former Seattle King County NAACP President James Bible, according to early returns. Robertson, an attorney who works for a firm in Mercer Island, said she believes the election results indicate constituents “don’t want divisive, partisan politics” in Bellevue.
Responsibilities of the new Bellevue City Council include responding to an influx of Amazon workers, expected by 2024, and arrival of light-rail service.
Seattle Times Project Homeless Interim Editor Vianna Davila contributed to this story.