PACIFIC COUNTY — One local race remains far too close to call following last week’s general election, and a resolution may not come until later this month.
In the race for Position No. 4 on the Long Beach City Council, Karla Jensen leads Patrick Reddy by just three votes, with hundreds of ballots still uncounted throughout Pacific County.
Jensen led by 25 votes, 161-136, when initial results were released on Election Day on Nov. 2. But a Nov. 5 update from county election officials showed Reddy cutting Jensen’s lead down to three votes after the most recently tabulated ballots broke his way, 74-52. Seven write-in votes have been cast in the race as well, thus far.
Jensen is the owner of the Mermaid Inn & RV Park and the president of the Long Beach Merchants Association. Reddy is an Air Force veteran and the owner of Green Planet Carpet Cleaning and 360 Apartments. In a candidate questionnaire last month, Jensen said that if she was elected she would actively work to help the city develop “a true plan for what we want our community to look like as it grows.” Reddy said he would focus broadly on housing issues, including a lack of affordable long-term housing.
Up to 270 ballots remain to be tallied countywide, with the next update scheduled for Nov. 23. Pacific County Auditor Joyce Kidd says the county canvassing board may be able to process the ballots earlier if time becomes available, but pointed to a state law that says counties with a population of less than 75,000 shall process ballots and canvass the votes at least every third day if the county auditor is in possession of more than 500 ballots that have yet to be counted.
“I understand that it is hard for the candidates in the close races to wait, but I assure you that we are following the elections laws,” Kidd said in an email to the Observer. Kidd added that it is unclear how many ballots from Long Beach voters have yet to be counted.
The outcome is not in doubt for the two other peninsula races. In the other Long Beach City Council race, for Position No. 5, George Coleman holds a decisive lead over his opponent, Richard Vincent. Coleman, a musician and retired software architect, leads with 66.8% of the vote compared to 32.2% for Vincent, a U-Haul dealer and owner of All Safe Mini-Storage.
Coleman cited a lack of affordable housing as one of the most important issues facing the city of Long Beach, for both working-class and homeless people. Coleman said the council should look at changing the ordinance that defines the minimum size of a housing unit to create more affordable rental units for service industry workers, while also encouraging the conversion of vacation rentals into full-time residences.
And in Ilwaco’s mayoral contest, former two-term mayor Mike Cassinelli leads by a solid margin over incumbent Mayor Gary Forner, leading 56.7% to Forner’s 41.7%. Cassinelli’s lead narrowed only slightly from the initial results that were posted on Election Day, and he leads Forner by a raw total of 174-128.
Cassinelli said he was approached by some community members to run for another term as the city’s leader. He cited a lack of high-speed broadband as a key issue facing Ilwaco, and also pledged to have the city “at the head of the line” to receive federal funds from the federal infrastructure bill passed last week by Congress to address problems with the city’s utilities.
With 7,407 ballots tabulated across all of Pacific County, voter turnout in the 2021 general election currently sits at 43.4% — up from 42.6% turnout in 2017. And with at least 270 ballots still left to be tallied, the number will rise higher still. Overall, turnout in Washington state sits at 38.5%, but is expected to climb as counties continue to report updated results. Three counties, including Wahkiakum, have exceeded 50% turnout so far.