Challenger Derek Young held a slight lead Tuesday night over incumbent Stan Flemming in their race for the Pierce County Council.
Their election was too close to call in early returns, as they were separated by less than a percentage point with thousands of ballots yet to count.
Young, a Democrat, and Flemming, a Republican, are vying for a four-year seat on the council representing the Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas and portions of Tacoma.
The two Gig Harbor residents are seeking to represent District 7 in the only contested race among three County Council spots in the general election. The winner earns a seat on the seven-member council and an annual salary of $107,602.
The election outcome could affect the extent of the council majority’s power. The council currently has five Republicans — enough to approve measures requiring a supermajority — and two Democrats. Most tax increases require a supermajority, as does overriding a veto by the county executive.
Young, 38, who runs his own graphic design business, finished his fourth, four-year term on the Gig Harbor City Council in December.
“Obviously, we’re happy,” Young said after the first returns. “We brought up a lot of issues that resonated with the voters. Hopefully, the trend will continue.”
Flemming, 61, is a former state legislator and was a University Place city councilman for 14 years, serving as the city’s first mayor. He also is a physician and a retired Army reserve brigadier general.
After initial returns, Flemming said it was too early to give any comments, according to his campaign manager, Patty Mannie.
Flemming’s residency in University Place became an issue during the campaign because of redistricting in 2011. He was drawn out of Council District 7 with three years left on his term.
The Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas were split off from University Place and Fircrest and linked to Tacoma’s West End and North End.
To run for re-election to the County Council, Flemming had to move into the reshaped district.
So far, the tight general election appears to be a reprise of the August primary, when Young finished 50 votes ahead of Flemming out of 29,020 votes cast.
During the campaign, the two disagreed sharply over who was best qualified to represent the district. Young contended he understands the concerns of people on the peninsulas. Flemming touted his broad experience in city, county and state government.
Two other council incumbents — Dan Roach, a Republican, and Rick Talbert, a Democrat — ran for re-election unopposed.