Knobloch, Vann look strong in primary

Voters in Bainbridge Island’s central district gave a green light in the city council primary election to two political newcomers.

Bill Knobloch and Deborah Vann, two neighborhood activists who stake out environmentally oriented positions, ran well ahead of two candidates linked to the building industry.

With an estimated 35 percent voter turnout in the mail-only election, Azalea Avenue activist Bill Knobloch, a leader in the effort to stop the Wing Point Country Club’s plans to build a driving range, was leading local builder Bill Nelson by a margin of 1,476 votes to 933, a 56-35 percent margin.

The third candidate, barista Houston Wade, had withdrawn from the race before the primary and thrown his support to Knobloch, but still polled almost 9 percent of the votes.

“I am very pleased with the results, and looking forward to continuing my campaign island-wide,” Knobloch said.

In the primary election, candidates run in their own districts only. The general election is island-wide.

Nelson had to overcome a challenge to his residence filed by Knobloch supporters, and said that got him off to a late start.

“I’m not too disappointed under the circumstances,” he said. “I have to get going on advertising and raise my visibility.”

In the other central ward primary, Ferncliff Avenue resident Deborah Vann was running ahead of incumbent Jim Llewellyn, a carpenter-homebuilder, by 1,196 votes to 1,011, a 46-37 percent margin. Economist Richard Berndt, a local political newcomer, was capturing 15 percent.

“I attribute the success to the hard work done by the people who support me,” Vann said. “I think we have the momentum, and want the citizens of the island to realize that my values and concerns are shared by the majority.”

Llewellyn admitted he was “a little surprised” by the result, but thought it reflected his lack of campaigning.

“I expect to get the word out about what I have been doing. It’s been a good term in office and worthy of another,” he said. “I have a broad-based platform that I think Islanders will respond to.”

The third council seat to be decided this fall is in the city’s north ward, where planning commissioner Deborah Vancil will meet architect Thomas Hofferber.

There was no primary in that race.

In the four-way race to succeed retiring fire district commissioner Alan Corner, former volunteer fireman James “Jim” Johnson and fire volunteer Scott Gray were locked in a dead heat, both with 32 percent of the vote.

Only six votes separated them, with Johnson holding a 1,473-1,467 edge.

Seattle attorney Brian Lawler was polling 22 percent, probably not close enough for scattered late ballots to put him into the general election, while retired NASA engineer Ralph Spillinger trailed with 13 percent.

“I’m excited with the outcome of being one of the candidates, and looking forward to the general election,” said Johnson, a systems designer for Watson Furniture and the only candidate to display a network of yard signs.

“I don’t know if the signs did it or not,” he said. “I tried my best in the primary, and we’ll see what happens in the general.”

Gray, a lieutenant in the Seattle Fire Department, also expressed his pleasure with the outcome.

“I look forward to the general election,” he said. “Jim and I are very different individuals with different ideas for the fire department.”

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