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Saturday, September 20, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sullivan concedes in council contest

Seattle Times staff reporter

Cynthia Sullivan, chairwoman of the Metropolitan King County Council and its longest-serving member, conceded defeat yesterday to an energetic political newcomer, Bob Ferguson.

Absentee ballots counted yesterday widened Ferguson's thin margin and appeared to assure his victory. Because no members of another party were on the ballot, Ferguson's win in the Democratic primary will put him in office in January.

Ferguson, an attorney in private practice, conducted an aggressive door-to-door campaign in which he attacked Sullivan's support of the Sound Transit light-rail project and called for a leaner County Council.

Meanwhile, in the race to take on Seattle City Councilwoman Judy Nicastro, challenger Robert Rosencrantz pulled to within 178 votes of Jean Godden.

With Nicastro ahead, only one challenger will advance to face her in the Nov. 4 general election. Godden, the former Seattle Times columnist who entered the race on the last possible day, said she was confident she'd won that honor.

"My number crunchers say I've won. They're not the least bit concerned, nor am I," Godden said.

But Rosencrantz said he wasn't giving up. "I'm optimistic, I'm hopeful. Forward we go," he said.

Elections officials will release more votes Tuesday, when they expect to have 95 percent of the more than 300,000 ballots counted. They'll issue a final batch of votes Thursday.

Meanwhile, fourth-place finisher Kollin Min was losing hope.

"If the fat lady isn't singing, we can definitely hear her warming up," he said.

In the race for Position 5 on the Port of Seattle commission, Alec Fisken benefited from a late surge in ballots and moved ahead of Claudia Hirschey in the contest to challenge incumbent Clare Nordquist.

Hirschey, a transportation engineer, had led Fisken, a policy adviser for the city of Seattle, by about 1,200 votes on election night. But after the latest absentee ballots were counted yesterday, Fisken had pulled ahead by about 3,300.

"We think that's it," Fisken said.

Hammond lead solidified

King County Councilman Steve Hammond solidified his lead over state Sen. Pam Roach and former state Rep. Phil Fortunato for the Republican nomination to the council District 9 seat. Hammond will face Democrat Barbara Heavey in November.

On the Eastside, City Council races in Bellevue and Woodinville, and a fire district measure in Carnation, are still too close to call.

In Bellevue, Renay Bennett and Al Yuen are neck-and-neck in the race for a spot in the general election to face John Chelminiak for council Position 3.

In Woodinville, 10 votes separate Kenneth Kill and Antonio Pruett-Saratan II for the chance to face incumbent Scott Hageman in the council Position 4 race. Meanwhile, a Fire District 10 measure that would add a benefit charge and lower the property-tax rate was just six votes shy of the needed 60 percent supermajority.

Call to Ferguson

In the King County District 2 race, Sullivan called Ferguson yesterday afternoon to congratulate him on his victory.

"It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the wonderful people of North and Northeast Seattle," she said in a written statement. "It is the work and dedication of the many citizens and community organizations in these neighborhoods that make King County such a great place to live."

Ferguson said Sullivan had "served the county well" during her 20 years on the County Council, but, "people responded to the message that 20 years is enough."

Ferguson said his visits to the homes of more than 22,000 voters between January and September were critical to his victory.

"You've got to go directly to voters and voters will respond to it," he said.

Pete von Reichbauer, the Republican vice chairman of the County Council, said Ferguson's victory could weaken or end the council's support of Sound Transit's Link light-rail program.

"Suddenly you've gone from seven votes pretty much locked in to six with a lot of questions," he said.

Ferguson said yesterday he doesn't know how he will respond to County Executive Ron Sims' suggestion that a regional transportation initiative include $1 billion to extend light rail from downtown to Northgate.

"I've got to sit down with Mr. Sims and some others and talk it over," Ferguson said.

Smaller council backed

Anti-tax activist Tim Eyman, who is supporting an initiative by the King County Corrections Guild to reduce the size of the County Council from 13 to nine members, said Ferguson's election to the council gives momentum to that effort.

Eyman called Ferguson's election and yesterday's state Supreme Court order to King County to move toward putting Initiative 18 on the Nov. 4 ballot "a one-two punch to the Cadillac King County Council."

Eyman said he was amused by Sullivan's attempts during the campaign to link him with Ferguson. In Ferguson's campaign literature the candidate often noted he was a member of the law firm that had fought several of Eyman's initiatives in court.

Seattle Times reporters Jim Brunner, Warren Cornwall and J. Martin McOmber contributed to this story. Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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