Hunter up big in Tacoma council race; Thoms, Beale, Ushka also leading

Lillian Hunter
Lillian Hunter

Lillian Hunter had a commanding lead Tuesday over Meredith Neal in the race to represent all of Tacoma in the District 6 at-large City Council seat, according to early election returns.

Hunter said during the campaign she focused on the need for better public safety and better public works, and the need for improving communication with residents.

“It’s a confirmation that we were on target with what’s resonating with folks and what their concerns are, and what they’d like to see happen,” she said Tuesday night. “I stayed on message consistently from when I launched the campaign and people responded.”

Neal acknowledged the sizable gap between her and her opponent, but said she’s hopeful in the next few days that it could close.

“Since the returns have been so low so far I’m kind of hopeful, I look forward to seeing what the returns are over the next few days and we’ll see if I close the gap — you never know, I’m a rose colored glasses sort of person I guess,” she said. “I have nothing but respect for my opponent and I think I was really lucky to get to run against a smart, strong woman.”

Hunter, a longtime educator and nearly 50-year Tacoma resident, recently retired as the director of alternative learning for the Office of Superintendent for Public Instruction.

Neal is a former Tacoma Planning Commission member and a project manager for Tacoma remodeling company MRF Construction. She also is on the Washington Elementary PTA board.

Both women were among eight finalists to fill the at-large seat when it was vacated by Victoria Woodards, who left her council position a year early to run for mayor (the council ultimately appointed Lauren Walker Lee, a former two-term councilwoman).

In other City Council races, incumbent Councilman Robert Thoms was leading Philip Cowan in the race for District 2. Thoms is a Navy Reserves commander who was initially appointed to the seat in 2013 and has been supported by many of the industrial businesses at the Port of Tacoma. Cowan is the executive director of the Grand Cinema and painted himself as a strong progressive who would prioritize the environment. District 2 includes Northeast Tacoma, the Tideflats, downtown and the Stadium District.

In South Tacoma, Chris Beale was leading in District 5 against Brian Arnold in what was seen by some as a race that pitted “Old Tacoma” against “New Tacoma.” Arnold is a Farmer’s insurance agent and small business owner, who spoke often of keeping family-wage jobs in Tacoma and tackling bread-and-butter issues, like public safety and potholes. Beale, the former chairman of the Tacoma Planning Commission, is backed by other young Tacoma progressives and spoke often of high-level needs, such as better public transportation and urban density.

On the East Side, Catherine Ushka was leading Kevin Grossman in the race for District 4. Ushka is the elected board president for Tacoma Public Schools. Grossman works as a commercial real estate broker and developer. He previously served on the Shoreline City Council.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud