King County Elections workers collect ballots from the drop box at Burien Town Square Park early Tuesday evening (Nov. 2, 2021).
 

Story & Photos by Nicholas Johnson

With 89 percent of Burien’s ballots counted as of Friday (Nov. 5, 2021), the winners and losers of this year’s four city council races – decided by some 42 percent of the city’s registered voters – are finally coming into view.

In the race for Position No. 7, Deputy Mayor Krystal Marx conceded to challenger Stephanie Mora on Friday after the latest results failed to swing far enough in the incumbent’s favor for her to recover from an Election Night deficit of nearly 13 percentage points.

“While the latest ballot count showed more movement in my favor, it is clear that a win is not in the cards for my re-election campaign,” Marx wrote in a Facebook post Friday evening after telling The B-Town Blog that she was both surprised and saddened by the outcome.

Mora, who did not respond to a request for comment for this story, declared victory Tuesday night after initial results – based on about half of all ballots cast by Burien voters in this year’s general election – showed her with a commanding lead.

“I wish to express my thanks and best wishes to my opponent, Krystal Marx, on her future endeavors,” Mora wrote in a Facebook post. “I look forward to getting to work and helping to create the change the residents of Burien clearly want to see in our city.”

In the race for Position No. 1, candidate Hugo Garcia has turned an Election Night deficit of 3.25 percentage points into a 4-point lead by earning 55 percent of votes counted since Tuesday night.

“I’m very confident that the trends we are seeing are going to continue,” Garcia said Friday. “I know there are still votes to be counted – and, until it’s finalized, I want to make sure every vote is counted – but I’m very optimistic and hopeful.”

Fellow Position No. 1 candidate Martin Barrett, who is currently trailing by 433 votes, would need more than 65 percent of remaining ballots to retake the lead. Barrett did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

In the race for Position No. 3, Mayor Jimmy Matta has extended his lead over challenger Mark Dorsey from 4 percentage points on Election Night to 8 points as of Friday. While acknowledging that more votes remain to be counted, incumbent Matta said he’s looking forward to a second term.

“It took every effort and every cent for me to win this election,” said Matta, who raised and spent more than $85,000 during his campaign. “Imagine if I wouldn’t have had the money, if I wouldn’t have had a team; I don’t know if I would have been celebrating today. It was a very difficult campaign, and I know the next one will be difficult as well if I decide to run again in four years.”

Dorsey, who would need more than 80 percent of the remaining votes to take the lead, said he is hopeful as vote-counting continues.

“At this point, I was sure I would be ahead by a wide margin,” Dorsey said in written statement Saturday morning. “I assumed that if I showed Burien how better of a candidate I am for Position No. 3 that they would in turn vote for me. The current results say otherwise.”

Election Analysis: Garcia surpasses Barrett as Mora unseats Marx in Burien City Council races 1

A King County Elections worker looks on as people drop their ballots in the drop box at Burien Town Square Park early Tuesday evening.

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In the race for Position No. 5, candidate Sarah Moore has maintained a lead of more than 7 percentage points over fellow candidate Alex Simkus. As of Friday, Moore’s lead has grown to more than 9 percentage points after she received more than 56 percent of the votes counted on Friday.

“I’m very pleased with my numbers,” Moore said in a written statement, stopping short of declaring victory as more than 1,400 Burien ballots remain to be counted. “For now, I’ll just say I feel good about my chances.”

Simkus, who is currently trailing by 998 votes, would need more than 85 percent of remaining ballots to take the lead. He did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

“Personally, I am grateful to Alex Simkus for running a campaign that was very focused on the issues he felt were important, and I tried to do the same,” Moore said. “He was classy and honorable throughout.”

Simkus is one of three candidates, including Mora and Barrett, who made their opposition to the Downtown Emergency Service Center’s (DESC) permanent supportive housing project central to their campaigns. For his part, Dorsey has said he primarily opposes the project’s planned location in downtown Burien as well as the city council’s “rushed” vote to accept the project into the city’s Affordable Housing Demonstration Program.

The significance of that issue during this year’s city council races was highlighted by two anonymous mailers opposing the project that showed up in voters’ mailboxes alongside the usual candidate mailers in the two weeks ahead of Election Day.

“I think that some of the candidates, and some in our city, tried to frame this election as a narrow referendum on the DESC,” Moore said. “Based on how it’s going, I think the voters have mostly shown that they want a council who cares for a wider range of issues, as befits a growing city.”

King County Elections will continue counting ballots and reporting updated results until the election is certified on Nov. 23.

So far, 93 percent of more than 600,000 ballots have been tabulated countywide. The remaining 40,000 or so ballots will be counted Monday, said Halei Watkins, a spokesperson for King County Elections.

After that, Watkins said, the number of ballots being counted each day will slow to a trickle comprised of ballots arriving late in the mail as well as “challenged” ballots initially flagged for signature issues and since “cured” by the voters who cast them.

In Burien, some 130 ballots are marked as challenged, with 63 bearing a signature that does not well enough match a signature on file and 59 having not been signed at all. Voters can check the status of their ballot by visiting the King County Elections webpage.

Election Analysis: Garcia surpasses Barrett as Mora unseats Marx in Burien City Council races 2

This image taken from the King County Elections webpage shows precinct-level voter turnout in Burien, with the highest rates of participation seen in the dark red precincts clustered in the southwest and northwest portions of the city.

Nearly half of all Burien voters who cast their ballot in this year’s election did so on Election Day, according to data collected by King County Elections and posted to its website.

Those ballots had not yet been counted when King County Elections posted initial results minutes after voting stopped and ballot drop boxes around the county were secured Tuesday night. Instead, the huge majority of those ballots were processed and tabulated over the next three days, as has been the case with Washington elections for years – particularly in local-election years, which consistently see a spike in voter turnout on Election Day.

“Especially in these local years, we see voters hang onto their ballots until the very end,” Watkins said. “Pretty much every time we have a local election, primary or general, we just see 50, sometimes 60, percent of folks wait until the last day or two to get their ballots in. And when half of people wait until Election Day to turn in their vote, it takes time to accurately count all those votes.”

More than 60 percent of Burien voters under age 35 waited until Election Day to cast their ballots, according to county elections data. Nearly 55 percent of Burien voters under age 65 waited until Election Day.

While more than 42 percent of Burien’s registered voters cast their ballots in the general election, some areas of the city saw much greater turnout than others.

Of the city’s 55 precincts, 17 saw voter turnout surpass 50 percent, all of which lie west or southwest of Ambaum Boulevard in neighborhoods such as Shorewood in northwest Burien and Three Tree Point, Maplewild, Gregory Heights, Lake Burien and Seahurst in southwest Burien.

The highest turnout was 69.35 percent in the Three Tree Point/Maplewild area while the lowest turnout was 19.4 percent in the Sunnydale area east of State Route 509.

Election Analysis: Garcia surpasses Barrett as Mora unseats Marx in Burien City Council races 3

An anonymous red sign urging Burienites to vote against four specific candidates sits among candidate campaign signs, one of which is defaced with a sticker reading “corrupt,” at the corner of Ambaum Boulevard and Southwest 152nd Street on Monday, Nov. 1, ahead of the Nov. 2 election. The same anonymous signs and stickers also briefly appeared throughout the city in late July ahead of the primary election.

Nicholas Johnson (he/him) is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer who grew up in Boulevard Park, graduated from Highline High School and studied journalism at Western Washington University. Send news tips, story ideas and positive vibes to [email protected].