Kent City Council races set for November ballot

Four of seven seats up for grabs

The campaigns for four Kent City Council seats will heat up this fall with the races set for the Nov. 5 general election ballot.

King County Elections has counted most of the Aug. 6 primary ballots, which means the following showdowns are coming up:

The tightest race could be between longtime incumbent Les Thomas and challenger Hira Singh Bhullar for Position No. 3. As of Monday, Thomas had 37.78 percent (5,975 votes) and Bhullar had 36.77 percent (5,815 votes). Sara Franklin failed to advance with 25.11 percent (3,972 votes).

Thomas, in his 16th year on council, hopes to get re-elected to a fifth term while Bhullar, who lost a 2015 council race to Tina Budell, looks to pull off a victory in his second try four years later.

Incumbent Marli Larimer will take on challenger Todd Minor for Position No. 1. Larimer received 49.98 percent (7,659 votes) and Minor had 32.38 percent (4,962 votes). Elizabeth Peang failed to advance with 17.05 percent (2,613 votes). The council appointed Larimer last year to replace Budell, who moved to Chicago for a new job.

Awale Farah and Zandria Michaud survived the four-candidate race for Position No. 7 to replace Dennis Higgins, who decided not to run again. Farah had 36.54 percent (5,670 votes) and Michaud received 24.04 percent (3,731 votes). Ron Johnson with 20.30 percent (3,151 votes) and Barry Fudenski at 18.65 percent (2,894 votes) failed to advance.

About 26 percent (16,787) of registered voters (64,280) participated in the primary.

A fourth council race on the November ballot will be between incumbent Bill Boyce and challenger Mizan Rahman. They were the only two to file for the position so they did not appear on the primary ballot.

King County Elections will mail ballots Oct. 16 for the general election.

School board race

Just one of the three positions up on the Kent School Board will be contested on the Nov. 5 ballot. None of the incumbents filed to keep their seats on the five-member board.

Voters will choose between Michele Bettinger, of Renton, and David Canterbury, of Renton, for the District 2 position held by Karen DeBruler since 2010.

Leslie Hamada, of Covington, is the only candidate seeking the District 3 seat held by Debbie Straus since 2007. Leah Bowen, of Kent, is the only one who filed for the District 1 position, held by Ross Hardy, who was appointed to the seat in 2017.

Fire measure wins

Kent and Covington voters approved a Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority levy on the primary ballot to boost property taxes to help maintain and fund operations.

As of Monday, the measure had 56.71 percent approval with 11,489 votes. A total of 43.30 percent (8,772 votes) were against the property tax hike, according to King County Elections. About 26 percent (21,044) of registered voters (81,187) participated in the primary.

This year’s measure will allow Puget Sound Fire to restore its property tax levy next year to $1.00 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That rate has dropped each year because of the state’s 1 percent limit on property tax increases and the jumps in property values over the last eight years. This year’s rate is 71 cents per $1,000.

Puget Sound Fire makes up the property tax shortfall by raising the fire benefit charge on properties. The fire benefit charge is a variable rate fee based on the square footage and the amount of resources needed to provide emergency services to each house or business. With the fire benefit charge, the owner of a large house or business pays a higher fee than the owner of a small home or business.

With the passage of the property tax hike, Puget Sound Fire will reduce the fire benefit charge on each property owner by the amount of the tax hike so that residents will pay the same amount next year as this year.

The measure, however, also included annual increases greater than the 1 percent allowed by the state by using the annual consumer price index (CPI) for Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue as reported in July of each year for each of the five succeeding years. That would have allowed a 3.3 percent rate increase in 2018.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with the correct number of approval votes for the fire measure.

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