Berrios, Ralph lead race for Kent mayor

Kent City Council members Jim Berrios and Dana Ralph are headed for an election showdown in November to be the new mayor.

Berrios leads the primary results with 39.43 percent (3,514 votes) followed by Ralph at 32.42 percent (2,889 votes), according to King County Elections on Tuesday night. Both will advance to the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

“They were encouraging,” Berrios said about the initial results. “It’s just telling me I have a lot of work to do but I’m very blessed to have the support of the community based on the preliminary numbers.”

Former City Council member Elizabeth Albertson is third with 19.39 percent (1,728 votes) and political newcomer Andrew Swansen is fourth at 8.51 percent (758 votes).

Either Berrios or Ralph will replace Suzette Cooke, who decided not to seek a fourth, four-year term as mayor. Her terms ends Dec. 31. Kent’s mayor is a full-time position and pays $144,996 per year.

“I’ve had people thank me for the business approach I take on the council,” Berrios said. “They appreciate what my wife and I do in the community and what I do in the community.”

Berrios, in his fourth year on the council, and Ralph, in her sixth year, sit next to each other at the twice-a-month regular meetings at City Hall.

“I’m pleased,” Ralph said about the results. “We have some work to do but I’m excited about where we are at.”

In 2013, voters elected Berrios, owner of the Golden Steer Steak ‘n Rib House on the East Hill, to the council when he defeated Wade Schwartz. Berrios lost a 2009 run for mayor against the incumbent Cooke. He served on the Kent School Board from 2007 to 2011.

“It tells me there are people paying attention to the campaign,” Berrios said about reasons he received the most votes. “They are looking for someone with experience in leadership. I bring that with 37 years of experience at the executive level.”

Before buying the Golden Steer in 1999, Berrios was senior director of operations for Denny’s restaurant chain.

In 2015, voters reelected Ralph, who owns a medical billing service in Kent, to a second, four-year term on the council when she ran unopposed.

“We’ll be reaching out and making as many contacts with voters as we can,” Ralph said. “That’s our job for the next 95 days.”

Ralph served eight years on the city’s Land Use and Planning Board and eight years on the Kent Arts Commission prior to beating Michael Sealfon for a council seat in 2011. She lost a council race against Dennis Higgins in 2009.

Albertson served on the council from 2006 to 2013 before deciding not to seek reelection. She defeated Russ Hanscom, now a Kent School Board member and council candidate this fall, in her first council race in 2005. She defeated Geoff Koepp in 2009.

Swansen, who works as a chief information officer for Seattle Colleges, which includes Seattle Central, North Seattle and South Seattle colleges and Seattle Vocational Institute, had hoped to advance to the general election as an alternative to candidates with political backgrounds.

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