It wasn't as close a race as most political observers thought it would be. Hell it wasn't even close at all. Current King County Elections Director Sherril Huff won today's special election, by an insurmountable margin.
Initial vote totals were posted on the King County Elections Office website. Huff took in 44 percent of the 173,500 votes counted so far.
David Irons Jr. is currently in second place with 19 percent. State Senator Pam Roach received nearly 17 percent. None of the other three candidates running, Bill Anderson, Christopher Clifford and Julie Kempf received more than ten percent.
Huff had been appointed to the position by outgoing King County Executive Ron Sims and enjoyed the advantage of being the incumbent in the race. She was also endorsed by the King County Democratic Party.
Speaking on the phone with Huff almost immediately after the results were posted, she seemed obviously elated and relieved. The excited chatter of ebullient staffers could be heard in the background from the King County Election's Renton vote center, since the director was still managing the office right up through the election.
"I feel wonderful about it," Huff gushed. "I wasn't sure what to expect, right down until they brought me the results."
Asked about the low voter numbers, Huff grew a little more somber stating that it was disappointing that there wasn't more of a turnout. The fact that this election came just three months after last November's historic presidential race is a factor. As were the holidays.
"What we generally find in elections like this is there are the ones who will always vote in special elections," Huff explained. "It's always disappointing when we don't have a good turnout. But I'm pleased with the outcome."
This is the first time the King County electorate has chosen an Elections Director, finally bringing it into line with the 38 other counties in the state. Now that the office is completely independent of the Executive, and now beholden directly to the people, Huff said she is comfortable with bringing some changes into place.
She offered the standard lines about looking at new innovations, reform and new technology. The Election Office's optical scanners used to tabulate mail-in votes are 15-years old. Huff also said that she'd like to triple the number of drop-off locations so voters could have more options to deposit their mail-in ballots; handy for those who wait until the last dog is hung and can't make it to a Post Office before voting on a Tuesday night.
As for the issue of poll voting, Huff said the county-wide vote-by-mail elections are here to stay. Gone is the quaint tradition of heading down to the local elementary school or Grange Hall to pull the lever. Only three "Accessible Voting" stations were open this election, allowing voters with special needs and voters who, for whatever reason, didn't receive a ballot to exercise their franchise in person.
At least for this election, the Accessible Voting machines in Renton were empty tonight and staff say they were not hardly used throughout the race.
Challenger David Irons Jr. couldn't be reached for comment on Tuesday night. Last week, however, Irons spoke with the Seattle Weekly, and remarked about the number of qualified candidates who had actually run for the position.
The 173,500 ballots counted thus far represent about 15.5 percent of the 1.1 million ballots mailed out twenty days ago. Returns have been sluggish up to and including election night. 24,000 ballots came in on Tuesday. It will be a few days until all the ballots dropped off in local Post Office reach the elections center. And weeks before ballots mailed from overseas come home.
Barring any completely redonkulous vote totals, Huff will continue at her job until 2011. There is a residency challenge by opposing candidate Clifford, alleging that Huff is not legally able to hold the position claiming she was not a legal resident of King County before the candidate filing deadline. Huff moved from Bremerton to Seattle by a whisker thin margin around the date. The King County Canvassing Board denied Clifford's challenge but time will see how further legal issues proceed.