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Sunnyside throws out two incumbents

It was not a good night for incumbents Tuesday, as Sunnyside voters threw out two of the three city council incumbents facing challengers and a third was hanging on by an eyelash.

Only about 35 percent of the 3,528 ballots issued to Sunnyside voters have been counted so far by the Yakima County Auditor's office

But, in the biggest surprise of the night, longtime local volunteer and activist Carol Stone appears to have handily upset incumbent Bruce Ricks, 623 votes to 440 votes, a percentage of 58 to 41.

"I'm surprised by the margin," said a tearful Stone. "I'm humbled and honored that the community voted for me." She attributed the margin to her longtime presence and active role in the community.

Stone said the results indicate that Sunnyside citizens are seeking a new direction for their city council. Stone said she will seek to bring city government "back to basics" and more representative of the community.

Ricks said he called Stone this morning to congratulate her on her victory.

"It's a great place to be able to serve the community," he said of serving on the city council. "I've really enjoyed being on council and serving in that capacity. It was a real honor to do that."

Another incumbent, Bengie Aquilar, appears to be going to defeat as well, losing by a two-to-one margin to challenger Bill Gant.

"I'm a little surprised," Gant said of the 749 to 337 outcome in his favor. Gant said he had no idea why he won by such a large margin, but added, "I have familiarity with 30-plus years in the school district and you get to know a lot of people."

Gant said he will approach service on city council like a "newborn baby, pretty much like a blank sheet of paper." He said he has no agenda, but noted he would like to see the city act in a more professional manner.

The third incumbent, Mike Farmer, leads challenger Bruce Epps by just ten votes-541 to 531-as of the latest count results at 10 p.m. Tuesday night.

Farmer refused comment, but Epps said the race is far too close to call. "I'm not concerned whatsoever," he said. "I knew it was going to be close."

If the slim edge remains in Farmer's favor, Epps said he will not seek a recount, "I have total faith in (county assessor) Corky and her office."

Two other incumbent council members running last night, Theresa Hancock and Paul Garcia, were unopposed.

But with at least two, and possibly three, incumbents thrown out, Epps said Sunnyside is seeking change.

"The people of Sunnyside are sending the message they don't want the status quo," he said. "They're tired of the rhetoric that has come out of the city hall lately. They want government to work better with the people, and they are saying it really loud."

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