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Tuesday, November 8, 2005 - Page updated at 10:32 PM

Election 2005

Somers takes early lead in Sax rematch

Times Snohomish County bureau

Snohomish County Republicans were hoping big-developer money would protect their 3-2 majority on the County Council for the next four years.

But early election returns Tuesday night showed Democrat and former Councilman Dave Somers taking a commanding lead over Republican incumbent Jeff Sax in their District 5 rematch. Sax defeated Somers four years ago to bring the council under a Republican majority.

"I think the thing that Jeff didn't get early on [during his tenure] is that you work for the citizens, not big money," Somers said Tuesday night. "I'd say my lead is a mix of votes for me as much as votes against Sax."

But Sax said the early returns Tuesday were no different from the early results posted four years ago, when he first faced Somers.

"It just means Democrats made an early push," Sax said. "I don't think it's any different than the last time."

Democrats at the county level were faring better than many expected after early returns. Republican incumbent John Koster held a narrow lead over former Marysville City Councilwoman Suzanne Smith for the District 1 seat, despite thoughts Koster would post an easy victory.

And as expected, Democrat Dave Gossett was well in front of newcomer Eva Davies for the District 4 seat.

Growth topped campaign platforms countywide. Developers poured tens of thousands of dollars into the District 5 race, hoping to cash in on Sax's pro-development stance.

Leading the charge has been the Coalition for Quality Communities PAC, financed mostly by Barclays North, one of the county's largest builders.

Sax has supported most county initiatives offering more growth opportunities.

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The stance differs from that of Somers, who has taken a more-conservative approach to growth.

The presence of independent candidate Greg Stephens in the race was expected to hurt Somers' chances, because the two candidates held many similar positions. But early returns showed that wasn't the case.

Somers had hoped to take advantage of Sax's gaffes while on the council. Among them was an incident two years ago in which Sax and family members were fined for building a house on Sax's residential property without a permit.

Somers also made mistakes. He took credit for helping to pass a set of traffic-mitigation fees to cover new growth expenses. But in reality, Somers proposed the measure when he was on the council, but the increased fees were passed by the current council, of which Sax is a member.

Christopher Schwarzen: 425-783-0577 or cschwarzen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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