Puyallup: News

Tight contests in Puyallup’s council seat races, but incumbents hold leads

A tight race for Puyallup’s District 2 City Council race has incumbent John Palmer inching ahead despite the tens of thousands of dollars spent to unseat him.

He has 92 votes more than challenger Paul Herrera, according to the Pierce County Auditor’s Office. Palmer had 52 percent of the vote in initial election results.

Herrera, a veteran and Puyallup Tribe police officer, ran for a cleaner, safer Puyallup.

Developers tied to the Knutson Industrial Site and its lawsuit against the city poured in more than $60,000 into Puyallup elections. Much of the outside money was spent to send voters mailers in supporting Herrera and attacking Palmer.

Palmer, who works at the Environmental Protection Agency, entered local politics and served on the land use commission as plans to develop a local farm into warehouses began to emerge. When Roger Knutson decided to sell his farmland on Shaw Road to developers for a seven-warehouse project, Palmer objected to the proposal, stating that Shaw Road could not support the amount of tractor-trailer traffic the warehouses would bring.

He was chosen as mayor by the City Council in 2018 and has supported measures such as building public recreational turf fields, opening Van Lierop Park and helping spur the contract between Salvation Army and Puyallup to house 14 people experiencing homelessness. He also has voted in favor of operational restrictions on Puyallup’s only resource center for the homeless and controversial Shaw Road expansions.

One Puyallup voter, Emily Daily said she voted for Herrera because she believes the council needs fresh faces. She wants Puyallup to do more to address the homelessness issue. She left the city for 18 months, but she’s seen a difference since returning.

“It’ drastic, and the city isn’t doing enough about it,” Daily said.

She had heard about warehouse developer feud, but she doesn’t believe that the city can stop the warehouse project.

“I feel like it’s a big problem but it’s inevitable,” Daily said. “There isn’t much we can do.”

Puyallup voters decided three other council races:

Incumbent Robin Farris is expected to carry District 1. The downtown district gave Farris nearly 52 percent of the preliminary results over small business owner Curtis Thiel.

Ned Witting is poised to win District 3 over Curt Gimmestad. Witting had won a comfortable 65 percent of the votes. Candidates were running for an open seat. Gimmestad is the director of operations for Absher Construction Co. and Witting is a retired entrepreneur.

The At Large position is also a tight race between incumbent Dean Johnson and Heather Shadko. Johnson is ahead by less than 100 votes with 2,901 supporting him. Johnson is a retail stylist at Nordstrom’s and has served Puyallup, voting against the strong mayor initiative and helped push for an end to the Vermillion lawsuit over public record disclosures. Shadko, once a council member for District 2, has vowed to work with the homeless center and fight against the Shaw Road warehouse proposal.

A second wave of votes will be released Wednesday at 4 p.m.

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Josephine Peterson covers Pierce County and Puyallup for The News Tribune and The Puyallup Herald. She previously worked at The News Journal in Delaware as the crime reporter and interned at The Washington Post.