Dana Ralph mingles with supporters at her Kent mayoral campaign gathering at Airways Brewing Bistro on Tuesday night. Ralph was leading Jim Berrios after the first official tally on general election night. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Ralph holds early lead over Berrios in race for Kent mayor | Election ‘17

Dana Ralph predicts “great things” are ahead for Kent after the early returns Tuesday night showed voters are choosing her over Jim Berrios to be the next mayor.

Ralph received 52.5 percent (5,810 votes) while Berrios had 47.4 percent (5,242) in results released by King County Elections, which will update the count each weekday as more votes are counted.

“We are very excited,” Ralph said during an election party at Airways Brewing Bistro in downtown Kent. “It’s a good margin and we feel the trend is going to hold. We’ve worked so hard. Everybody has put in so much time and effort. We did a ton of last-minute outreach.”

The showdown between the two Kent City Council members began more than a year ago after Berrios and Ralph announced they would run to replace Suzette Cooke, who decided not to seek re-election after 12 years in office.

While Ralph remained confident her lead would hold, Berrios wasn’t ready to concede on Tuesday night.

“We did get the preliminary results and, unfortunately, I’m at 47 (percent) and she’s at 52, but we’re only 568 votes apart,” Berrios said during a party at the Golden Steer Steak n’ Rib House he owns on the East Hill. “There are still a lot of votes coming in. We will see what happens.”

Ralph, who owns Advance Billing Systems, a medical billing system based in Kent, came away impressed with the first results.

“I feel these numbers are really good and better than we could have hoped for,” she said.

She said residents can have high expectations with her as mayor.

“Great things,” Ralph said about the next four years. “We are going to put Kent on the map. We are going to let everybody else know – what we all know about Kent – that this an amazing place to be.”

Ralph, in her sixth year on council, credited her supporters for making a difference.

“Hard work,” Ralph said. “The amount of voter outreach we did door belling, mailing, talking to people and working with the community. I feel like my experience and my track record spoke, and I’m grateful for that.”

Berrios, in his fourth and final year on council, thanked his supporters.

“We started this journey just over a year ago with an announcement party in this very same room,” Berrios said. “It was a packed room and a lot of you were here and here you are again, which says you were with me in the beginning and you are with me until the end.”

Cooke, who didn’t announce an endorsement for Berrios or Ralph, attended the election party for Berrios. Cooke defeated Berrios in the 2009 mayor’s race.

Ralph’s looking forward to taking over in January.

“We will work very closely with Mayor Cooke for a smooth transition and move into the new year in a really positive way,” she said.

A few of the differences between the two candidates included Ralph’s support of using the business and occupation (B&O) tax for city projects – such as park repairs –rather than only for street repairs. She also voted against the sale of the city-owned Riverbend Golf Complex par 3 course to developers preferring to keep it as open space. Berrios favored the sale, and construction will start next year on 500 new apartments in place of the par 3 course along West Meeker Street.

Ralph received large campaign contributions from numerous unions, including the MLK Jr. King County Labor Council, the Washington Education Association Political Action Commission, the UFCW Local 21 grocery store, retail, health care and meat processing workers and the Kent Firefighters Political Action Committee.

Berrios received large campaign donations from individuals or companies connected to real estate, housing and property management, including the Washington Association of Realtors Political Affairs Council as well as the Affordable Housing Council, which is the political action committee of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties.

Berrios had 39 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Ralph in the August primary that also included candidates Elizabeth Albertson and Andrew Swansen.

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