Wednesday, November 5, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Snohomish County Council -- It's Democrats' Night: Somers Wins; Cothern, Larsen Ahead

Seattle Times Snohomish County Bureau

It might be time to dust off Bill Brubaker's old "Lonesome R Ranch" plaque at the Snohomish County Council.

Unless absentee ballots change election results, the County Council once again will have a four-Democrat majority, leaving Councilman Gary Nelson as the sole Republican. The next run of absentee ballots will take place Friday or Saturday.

Democrats Barbara Cothern and Rick Larsen both hold slight majorities, while Dave Somers has squashed his Republican write-in opponent.

That's in marked contrast to 1993, when a property-rights revolution helped overthrow environmentalist Democrats Peter Hurley and Ross Kane. Hurley was replaced that year by R.C. "Swede" Johnson, a conservative Democrat supported by many Republicans, while Kane was defeated by Republican John Garner.

When Garner and Johnson were sworn in, then-Councilman Brubaker ceremoniously retired his "Lonesome R Ranch" desk plaque to a council display cabinet.

Now, Nelson might need it. Cothern, Larsen and Somers would join fellow Democrat Kirke Sievers to form a new majority much different than the current council's.

"It could be a real positive atmosphere for change," said Somers, a fisheries biologist who defeated Johnson in the Democratic primary to represent District 5, which includes Monroe, Snohomish and the Highway 2 corridor. His write-in opponent in yesterday's election, Barbara Bell, lost badly.

The Snohomish County Auditor's Office last night counted 127,304 ballots, from about 44 percent of the county's registered voters. Auditor Bob Terwilliger said 7,000 to 8,000 absentee ballots that arrived in yesterday's mail remain uncounted, and he expects another 20,000 to 25,000 more absentees to arrive before the election is certified Nov. 19.

Somers, 44, attributed the apparent Democratic sweep to changing perceptions of growth.

"Four years ago, it was property rights. Now it's dealing with growth fairly, and traffic problems, and school problems," he said. "I think that's what's really driving this election. It's just a totally different dynamic."

Cothern, 66, is edging out Pam Pruitt, a former Mill Creek mayor. The winner will replace Karen Miller to represent District 4, which includes Mountlake Terrace, Brier, Mill Creek, half of Bothell, and small areas of Lynnwood and Everett.

"I think it's a pretty good year for Democrats, as opposed to three years ago when I lost the Legislature race," said Cothern, who served in the state House from 1993 to 1995.

Cothern said she noticed a difference while doorbelling. "I found people were more forthcoming about their being Democrats," she said. "It's just the realization that no one party has the answers to everything."

Larsen, 32, was leading Arlington Mayor Bob Kraski in the race to represent District 1, the county's northern half. The winner will replace Garner, who chose not to run.

Larsen, public-affairs director for the Washington State Dental Association, downplayed his race's partisan implications.

"If I end up winning, I want to do what's best not just for Democrats or Republicans but what's best for Snohomish County as a whole," he said.

Diane Brooks' phone message number is 425-745-7802. Her e-mail address is:

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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