The most recent General Election tally, updated late yesterday afternoon by county officials, shows challenger Don Vlieger unseating incumbent Sunnyside Councilwoman Carol Stone by a slim 10-vote margin.
County election officials have to wait for just over a week to see if any ballots from military servicemen and others living outside the country will arrive from overseas before they can certify the election results. But in all likelihood, it's doubtful there are enough ballots left to be counted for Stone to make up the 10-vote deficit.
Vlieger is a former two-term councilman, first elected in November 1998. He chose not to seek a third term in the fall of 2006.
The former sheriff's deputy from California, now the owner of a bed and breakfast inn in downtown Sunnyside, has been a staunch advocate of maintaining a strong police presence in the city. In campaigning to rejoin the city council, Vlieger said he wanted local police to add K-9 units to the force to thwart the flow of drugs into Sunnyside, suggesting the trained dogs be used during traffic stops.
Vlieger, too, pointed to his track record as a former councilman in keeping taxes and fees at a bare minimum, advocating for fiscal responsibility.
Four Sunnyside City Council seats were up for grabs in this year's election, although only three of the positions were contested. Nick Paulakis, appointed to the council earlier this year when Bill Gant chose not to fulfill his term, ran unopposed.
Of the three contested races, two were won by the challengers...Vlieger and another former councilman, Mike Farmer, who easily bested incumbent Jesse Hernandez Jr. by a 770-572 margin.
Incumbent Theresa Hancock received a stiff challenge from political newcomer Jason R. Raines, but she pulled away late in the election count, now leading 688 votes to 623. Raines officially conceded the race to Hancock this past Sunday.
Two other tight Lower Valley races have also apparently been decided.
Javier Rodriguez will rejoin the Grandview City Council after having bested Larry Bolan by a 511-464 vote margin. The two men were seeking incumbent Councilwoman Jan McDonald's seat, who opted not to seek re-election this year. Rodriguez is a former Grandview councilman. For Bolan, this was his second unsuccessful try at securing a council seat in Grandview.
The one other close race in the Lower Valley has gone to Mark Gourneau, who tallied 87 votes for the Position 3 seat on the Mabton City Council. His opponent, Maria Cepeda-Rose, drew 73 votes.
Other winners in contested races in the Lower Valley include Joan Souders (Grandview City Council), Angel Reyna (Mabton Mayor), Michelle Emery Perry (Sunnyside School Board) and Jim Grubenhoff (Sunnyside Port Commissioner).