Based on early returns from the primary election released Tuesday night, the current mayor of Centralia will have some work to do ahead of the November general election in order to retain his seat.
Political newcomer Kelly Smith Johnston led Lee Coumbs with 745 votes cast in her favor in the four-way race for Council Position 2 At-Large. Votes for Smith Johnston accounted for more than 40 percent of those cast in that contest. The top two candidates in any primary race advance to the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
“I am grateful for the support I received in the primary,” Smith Johnston said in an emailed statement. “I heard over and over from citizens in this campaign that they want change, and last night they made that clear again. We will continue to work hard and listen to concerns as we move forward toward the general election.”
Coumbs, a longtime public figure, member of numerous Centralia volunteer boards and former schoolteacher, garnered 691 votes in the initial count posted online by the Lewis County Auditor’s Office at 8:07 p.m. Former council member Ron Greenwood trailed Coumbs by more than 20 percent for the second berth to November, with Kurtis Engle well behind in fourth place.
“The people have spoken two times now with my reelection campaign last time and this time not winning in the primary,” Greenwood said. “I’ll still continue in the background to help out where I can and be a good citizen of our city.”
Elizabeth Cameron led the four candidates vying to replace outgoing council member Joyce Barnes. Cameron tallied 633 votes, good for 35.6 percent of the total cast for Council Position 1 At-Large and a comfortable lead over the 457 votes for Matt Evans in second place.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity for change in the city to move it forward,” Evans said. “I think regardless of whether I win or my opponent wins, it’s good to see new people on the council. It would be good to see new people in other positions as well to help the city move in a new direction. It’s not that people have made bad decisions in the past, but it would be good to have some new blood to help the city move forward in this new day and age.”
Steven Hubbard trailed Evans by about 70 votes and John Ver Valen sat about 100 votes behind Evans. Hubbard said Tuesday that he felt there was a chance he could close that gap as votes continue to be tallied in the coming days. The next update is scheduled to be posted online at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
“I just want to thank everyone who came out to vote and supported me,” Hubbard said. “This is the first time I’ve ever attempted to run for office and I will make sure I’m better prepared next time.”
A total of 1,846 ballots had been counted in the race for Position 2; 1,778 votes were counted for Position 1 as of Thursday evening. The Lewis County Auditor has until Aug. 20 to certify the election results, and updates to the count are expected throughout the rest of this week.
“Primaries are a little bit more questionable, if you will.” Evans said. “I think when it comes to the general election, you get more voter turnout as well. There’s usually less people out for the primaries, especially in a non-presidential year.”
Calls to Coumbs and Cameron were not returned prior to press time.