Kennewick voters were picking a cannabis entrepreneur over a Hanford official Tuesday night in one of the area’s most-watched city council races.
Steve Lee, co-owner of two cannabis shops, had a sizable lead over incumbent Gregory A. Jones for a seat on Kennewick’s council.
Another Kennewick council incumbent, Don Britain, was faring better, with a wide lead over challenger Lindy Verhei for another slot.
In the final contested council race in Kennewick, business owner Bill McKay had a slight lead over former Ben Franklin Transit official Christy Watts for the Pos. 4 seat.
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A fourth council post also was on the ballot, however incumbent John Trumbo was unopposed.
Results from Tuesday night’s election aren’t yet official. An estimated 10,000 ballots are left to be tallied countywide, with the next update expected Wednesday afternoon.
The election will be certified on Nov. 28.
Jones vs. Lee
In the race for Pos. 2, Lee had 4,430 votes, or about 56 percent, after the initial results were released Tuesday night.
Jones was trailing with 3,497 votes, or 44 percent.
Lee is a Kennewick native who co-owns Green2Go cannabis shops in Finley and near Ritzville, plus a food truck and campground. He’s also a philanthropist, investing thousands in local groups and charities.
Lee, who spent about $66,000 on the campaign, largely from his own pocket, couldn’t be reached by deadline Tuesday night to talk about the results.
In the voter guide, he said he aims to “move Kennewick forward by easing the transition to a regional hub that outperforms its ‘big-city’ competition while staying true to its small town roots.”
Jones is a top financial officer at the Hanford site. He joined the council in 2013, after Sharon Brown stepped down to take a seat in the state senate.
Jones said Tuesday that he enjoyed his time on the council. “I want to congratulate my opponent on a good campaign,” he said. “I wish him the best in representing the city.”
Lee was recommended by Benton Democrats. Benton Republicans did not endorse a candidate in the race.
Britain vs. Verhei
In the Pos. 1 race, Britain was drawing 5,841 votes, or 72 percent, on Tuesday night. Verhei had 2,275 votes, or 28 percent, in her bid to join the council.
Britain, the mayor pro tem, is a graduate of Kamiakin High School and Columbia Basin College. He’s a case manager and first was elected to the council in 2009.
Verhei, a Southridge High School and WSU Tri-Cities graduate, has worked in counseling and education.
Verhei was recommended by the Benton County Democrats. Britain was endorsed by the Benton County Republican Party.
McKay vs. Watts
In the race for Pos. 4, McKay had a narrow lead with 4,248 votes, or 51 percent. Watts was drawing 4,074 votes, or 49 percent.
McKay is a former Idaho dairy farmer who now owns a self-storage business. Watts was marketing and customer service manager for Ben Franklin Transit before retiring earlier this year.
They’re vying to replace Councilman Bob Parks, who opted not to seek re-election.
McKay was endorsed by the Benton Republicans. Watts was recommended by the Benton Democrats.