City Council races appear set

Marine leads way in votes; Emery and Whelpley positioned for showdown
By Brandon Gustafson | Aug 15, 2019

The results of the primary election are in, and while the races won’t be certified until Aug. 20, it appears we know who will be advancing to the November general election in the four Mukilteo City Council races.

All four races (Positions 4-7) had three candidates, so all four races appeared on the Aug. 6 primary ballot. Just the top two vote recipients advance to the November ballot.



Position 4: Incumbents lead the way

Councilmembers Richard Emery and Scott Whelpley both appear to be locked in for a showdown in November. Position 4 is held by Steve Schmalz, who is not seeking reelection.

Emery announced his intention to seek reelection in April, while Whelpley filed for office on the last day of the filing period.

Emery initially filed to keep his current seat (Position 6), but changed to Position 4 because he wanted to run against Peter Zieve. Whelpley said he filed for Position 4 because there were three people in that race while there were just two in the Position 4 race. Zieve ended up switching to the Position 6 race, leaving Emery, Whelpley, and Charles Eakins for Position 4.

The primary results have been good for Emery, who, as of Tuesday, has more than 51 percent of the vote while Whelpley is around 37 percent. Eakins came in with 10.7 percent.

“I feel very pleased about that result, but I can’t take it for granted,” Emery said.

Whelpley and Emery have been on opposite ends of a few major City issues over the last year, namely the council’s decision to retain an outside legal attorney to help review allegations that Mayor Jennifer Gregerson had misspent City funds on severance packages for departing employees.

Additionally, Emery wants the City to keep its current form of government, while Whelpley was at the forefront of the council’s resolution to put a measure on the November ballot, which, if approved, would change the City’s government to a council-manager form rather than a mayor-council form, which Mukilteo has had since its inception in 1947.

“Richard and I, we have two different visions for the City,” Whelpey said. “I do my homework. And this is about transparency, ethical government, and accountable spending. He wants more of the same.”

Emery said he expects Whelpley to run “a vigorous campaign” going forward.

“We’ll see who the voters choose. Scott’s entitled to his opinion, and we haven’t disagreed as much as he seems to think,” Emery said. “I’m more concerned with how he wants to do things than what he wants to do. I’m more process-oriented.”

“He’s a tough opponent. I’ve got my work cut out for me,” Whelpley said. “But everything I’ve said has been true.

“I think (our race) comes out to what form of government the voters want.”


Position 5: First-timer and perennial candidate neck and neck

In the closest of the three City Council races, political newcomer Christopher Maddux and perennial candidate Riaz Khan appear to be advancing to November’s ballot. Position 5 is held by Scott Whelpley, who is in the Position 4 race.

Maddux, an IT specialist, has a slight lead over Khan, the president of the Islamic Center of Mukilteo and a regular on public office ballots, with just under 37 percent, compared to Khan’s 35.3.

James Yoo, who ran in 2017 and actually beat Khan in the primary before losing in the Position 1 race to Anna Rohrbough, sits in third with 27.4 percent.

Maddux is happy with the results, especially being a first-time candidate for office.

“It’s tight, but it’s a nice feeling,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Khan was a little more optimistic than Maddux after seeing the results.

“I think I’m going to make it (to the general election) and that I’m going to make it to the council,” Khan said.

Maddux acknowledged Khan has a lot of name recognition in town because he’s run for public office each year since 2015, and he said he hopes to increase his name recognition going forward, through doorbelling and attending council meetings.

“I think people are aware of who he is, but people also know who I am through my work with the Harbour Pointe (Middle School) music boosters,” Maddux said. “These are interesting times, and it’s a little surreal to be running my own campaign.”

Khan will continue doorbelling and learning about what citizens want addressed, naming transparency, no tax increases, and better public safety as issues he’s heard residents want addressed.

“I’m pleased with the results and I’m looking forward to getting on the council next year,” Khan said.


Position 6: Crawford gets big numbers, Zieve also to advance


Political newcomer Elisabeth Crawford appears to be a lock to advance to November’s ballot after earning more than 55 percent of votes in the Position 6 race. Her likely opponent is Peter Zieve, the CEO of Electroimpact, who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2017 against Bob Champion. Zieve is sitting at roughly 32 percent of the vote.

First-time candidate Exekiel Aranez tallied about 12 percent of the vote, and appears unlikely to advance.

“It was really exciting when I first saw the results,” Crawford said. “I think Mukilteo is looking for a professional, positive influence. I wasn’t setting myself up with any expectations going in, but I think the voters want someone who’s a positive influence.

“I know this isn’t the end. There’s a lot of work to be done, but the results showed people are receptive to my message of community engagement, families, and the environment.”

She noted that she moved to town just a few years ago, and has had some “great supporters” who have helped her with background information and history on a variety of issues, such as Mukilteo’s waterfront.

“There’s a misperception that people running for public office know everything or have all the answers, but that’s not the case,” she said. “It’s been helpful to have those supporters so I can get that history and other background.”

Zieve said he was surprised by the large gap between first and second place.

“I thought it was going to be closer. I’m surprised, based on the feedback I’d been hearing,” he said.

Zieve said he “doesn’t really have anything to complain about” regarding the race, saying there were unfair media reports when he ran in 2017, but noted he has some work to do to make up ground on Crawford.

“It’s a pretty big difference, and I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do to close a gap that big, but I need to come up with something soon,” he said.

Zieve did suggest that he might mail postcards about specific issues that he posts about on his political Facebook page, such as homeless encampments he said he found inside city limits.

“I think I’m going to blow the lid off of Facebook and let everyone see what I think, and then we’ll see what people think,” Zieve said.

Crawford said she can see the race getting “darker,” but she wants to stay positive through it all.

“I’ve received a lot of support and outreach from the community as a first-time candidate that I wasn’t expecting,” she said. “I feel good, and I want people to see my attitude is exemplified by my work.”



Position 7: Ex-Mayor Marine earns highest mark; Melnichenko leads Over

The race to fill Christine Cook’s Position 7 seat is fairly one-sided based on the primary results, as former Mayor Joe Marine came through with roughly 65 percent of votes.

“I’m feeling really good,” he said. “Getting back involved, I missed it. I think I can bring back what I brought to City government in the past. Looking at the returns, it shows Mukilteo still likes me, at least if people voting in the primary are any inclination.”

Marine said his experience in running the City allows him to help move Mukilteo forward.

“There’s something I can do to help,” he said, mentioning the City’s budget and reserves as areas that could use improvement.

Marine said he’s also excited to see some turnover on the council next year with “fresh faces” because of some issues between the current council and Mayor Gregerson. He also plans to continue doorbelling and engaging the community, while saying he’s “easily accessible” if any residents have questions or concerned.

It looks like Marine will be facing off against Kristina Melnichenko, a data analyst. She is leading real estate agent Tina Over by about 3 percent.

“I feel great,” Melnichenko said. “It’s tremendous that more than 1,000 people got my message. I’m tremendously motivated.”

While Marine leads the race by about 46 percent, Melnichenko said she’s going to continue reaching out to interest groups in town for their support.

“I really want to communicate with people that this is an opportunity to have this seat represent those interests,” she said.

One of the biggest surprises Melnichenko found while doorbelling was how focused residents are in wanting to feel represented and having a voice in various issues.

“People want to make sure this election put Mukilteo residents first,” she said. “They are looking for that representation.”

Melnichenko also said she’d like to hear from residents about issues they care about, and wanted to thank voters for getting her through the primary in her first ever election.


#Primary election results will be certified Tuesday, Aug. 20. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 5.#


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