Councilwoman Schneider reacts to status as new frontrunner in Bainbridge council race

Bainbridge Island Councilwoman Leslie Schneider had accepted her fate.

When the Bainbridge council started the new year, she would not be among the seven members gathered on the dais.

All that changed 5 p.m. Wednesday.

A new vote tally put Schneider in the lead over challenger Grayson William Wildsmith, who had previously led by 61 votes in first count on Election Night, in the race for the council’s District 4, Central Ward seat.

Schneider is the frontrunner now by 186 votes.

“I’m still absorbing the news,” Schneider said.

Schneider said she had been hitting the “refresh” button on her computer in the moments leading up to the 5 p.m. Wednesday announcement of the new vote tally, but with one eye on the door, because she was also due at a committee meeting at 5.

In the 21-odd hours since the first vote count, Schneider had envisioned the end of her service as a Bainbridge councilwoman.

“I spent all today reconciling myself to moving on, and telling everybody ‘I am OK.’

“Because, I was. Ten minutes ago; and I am now.”

“I had totally accepted that,” she said.

Still, the news of the election turnaround was a bit of a shock.

“It does change my world,” she said.

Schneider said realized the nature of the race was changing as the end of the campaign season neared, but not for the better.

“I understood the race was turning — on not who we are but what we stood for,” she said.

Instead, the race had become a referendum on the council’s controversial vote on the Suzuki affordable-housing project, and the council’s 4-3 decision to allow up to 100 homes on the city-owned land. Neighbors to the property and other islanders have said the new Suzuki plan would allow dense development on the property that’s not allowed elsewhere on the island outside the downtown core of Winslow.

Those councilmembers who voted in the majority on Suzuki earlier this year found themselves on the losing end on Election Night.

“It just felt like it wasn’t about who we were any more. It was about one vote I made,” Schneider said.

“And that one vote was a values-based vote and it was complicated. And I, from the get-go, understood the sort of the tradeoff.”

Schneider said her vote was characterized as a pro-development move. And along with that, flavored with untruthful add-ons.

“I was not willing to say I’m voting for Suzuki regardless of what it does for the wildlife corridor — I never said that.

“I never said I was willing to gouge out the pond — I never said that.”

The details of the development will be decided by the council at some future point, she said.

“My vote all along was to push the process forward,” Schneider said.

Schneider said she had been working to create a compromise on the Suzuki plan, but her attempts went nowhere.

She noted that Councilwoman Sarah Blossom again this week floated an idea to have a less-dense development on the Suzuki property, and Schneider said she will continue that press if she winds up winning the election.

“I am going to continue that work if all of this becomes final,” Schneider said.

An additional 1,038 ballots in the Central Ward race were counted Wednesday.

Schneider now has 51.1 percent of the vote, compared to Wildsmith’s 47.8 percent.

The initial tally of ballots on Election Night had Wildsmith with 50.1 percent of all ballots cast, while Schneider had 48.8 percent.

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