Kennewick City Councilman Gregory Jones, a top financial officer at Hanford, will face Steve Lee, a marijuana entrepreneur, in the race for Kennewick City Council Position 2.
In a separate race for Position 4, businessman Bill McKay will square off against Christy Watts, a recently retired Ben Franklin Transit executive, for the at-large position being vacated by Bob Parks.
The top two finishers in Tuesday’s primary races face each other again in the Nov. 7 general election.
With roughly 87 percent of ballots cast Tuesday, Jones held the lead with 935 votes, or almost 40 percent of the total. Lee had 816 votes, or nearly 35 percent. A third candidate, Shane Fast, received 591 votes, or 25 percent.
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There are an estimated 3,000 ballots left countywide, making it unlikely Tuesday’s results will be reversed as additional ballots trickle in. Aug. 15 is the deadline to finalize the election results.
Greg Jones is chief financial officer for the Hanford nuclear reservation and was appointed to the council in 2013 and later won election to his current four-year term.
In his first re-election campaign, Jones has kept a low profile in the face of the highly visible, self-funded effort by Lee, who owns the Green2Go marijuana shop in Finley with his wife, Jessy.
Lee vowed to spend his own money to level the playing field against a better-known incumbent, deploying everything from bus wraps to street signs to promote his name. Lee pledged to be an ally for small business entrepreneurs and said Kennewick should strive to become a destination for young start-ups.
“I’m really excited to be able to broaden the scope of the campaign to the city of Kennewick,” he said Tuesday.
Jones said he will actively campaign for the general election to share his message about economic development, quality of life and reducing the region’s reliance on Hanford jobs.
“I really look forward to continuing to serve,” he said.
In the general election, the entire city votes on each race. Lee said he’s looking forward to sharing his message across the city and passing out balloons and stickers at the upcoming Benton-Franklin Fair.
Councilman Bob Park’s decision to retire from his at-large position drew a field of six.
McKay is a former Idaho dairyman who moved to the Tri-Cities 21 years ago. He has a degree in accounting and has worked in business, finance and commercial real estate. He is majority owner and developer of a 553-unit storage facility on the city’s western side. Prioritizing essential services is the central theme of his campaign.
Christy Watts recently retired as marketing and public relations director for Ben Franklin Transit.
The first-time candidate said she was thrilled to emerge from the primary as a serious candidate.
“I’m hoping that I can pull in the votes that went to Jim Millbauer and Leo Perales and Griff,” Watts said, referring to three of the candidates in her race. “I will start thinking about campaign strategy in the morning.”
McKay received 2,079 votes, or 29 percent of those cast. Watts was second with 1,986 votes.
Jim Millbauer was third with 1,598 votes or 22.5 percent, Leo Perales was fourth with 665 votes, or 9 percent, Ed Pacheco was fifth with 524 votes, or 7 percent, and Austin “Griff” Griffin was sixth with 238 votes. or 3.36 percent.