Leigh Henderson received a letter this week from Dow Constantine, congratulating her on her recent election to the Bothell City Council. The King County executive wrote that he looks forward to working with her “to serve the people of our region.”
His congratulations were premature — Henderson hasn’t won the race. Three weeks after the general election, the duel between Henderson and Mason Thompson doesn’t have a clear winner. And who will take the council’s Position 2 seat is anyone’s guess.
Just five votes separate the candidates, out of nearly 12,000 ballots counted from voters in King and Snohomish counties.
“I lived and breathed running for City Council for 10 months, and when I thought it was going to be over, it was another three weeks,” Henderson said Tuesday. “Now it’s completely in the voters’ hands.”
Three King County races — all for Eastside city council seats — are still close enough to trigger automatic recounts.
Two will have machine recounts. In Redmond, Varisha Khan is leading three-term incumbent Hank Myers by 66 votes. The Mercer Island race between Daniel Thompson and Dave Rosenbaum for the Position 1 seat is separated by 40 votes, with Rosenbaum having a slight edge.
The Bothell City Council race, which includes voters in King and Snohomish counties, is the only one requiring a hand recount.
On Tuesday afternoon, as King County Elections certified results in other races that were called hours and days after election night, the six candidates in the recount races were preparing for another week of political limbo. The recounts will be held Dec. 4 and 5, and those results will be certified Dec. 6.
“This is not something I was prepared for,” said Rosenbaum, who trailed Thompson on election night but overtook him when more ballots were counted. He said he’s having conversations with other city officials to prepare for the position, but doesn’t “want to take up too much of their time should I not win.”
For an automatic recount with a machine, a gap between two candidates must be fewer than 2,000 and less than a .5% difference in the total number of votes cast. In the Redmond race, for example, the threshold is 66 votes, which is the exact difference between the two. If Khan had received one additional vote, she would have been certified as the winner.
Despite the recount, Myers wasn’t confident that he would emerge the winner, he said Tuesday afternoon as he drafted a letter effectively conceding the race. “My 15 years as a King County poll judge made that decision easy,” he wrote to supporters.
Khan, however, said she wouldn’t consider the election cycle finished until “the second that it gets certified and my name is on the list of candidates who won.”
But with a win likely, Khan will be one of the first two Muslim women elected to local office in Washington state. The second woman, Zahra Roach, was elected to the Pasco City Council in Franklin County.
“It’s races like mine in cities like Redmond that should give hope to voters and people who live here, to be proud of not only what our leadership will now look like but the power we have to change the way our government looks and acts in future,” Khan said.
Hand recounts require a difference of fewer than 150 votes and a .25% difference in total votes. For Bothell’s razor-thin-margin race, staff members in teams of two will examine each ballot and tally them by hand.
Henderson won in King County, which is why the executive’s office sent her a congratulatory letter, while Thompson won among Snohomish voters. Both say they campaigned in each county equally, so they’re not sure why that may be. But they’re taking the extended election night in stride.
“I’ve never run for office before, so as far as I’m concerned, this is normal,” Thompson joked.
Other Eastside races were close, but not enough for the automatic recount. Two races were both separated by 23 votes. A measure in Medina to increase the city’s tax rate was narrowly approved out of 1,288 total ballots. In Woodinville, Al Taylor won against Nicolas Duchastel for City Council Position 6 out of 3,799 ballots.
Among certified races, candidates or a political party representative for an office can request a recount, and for ballot measures, groups of five or more voters can make the request, according to King County Elections. Recount applications must be submitted within two business days after results are certified.
If any races are still tied after the recount, the winner will be determined by flipping a coin — King County Elections says it uses a quarter.