Three longtime public servants and a relatively new incumbent may get a chance to shape the development that replaces the Vista Field Airport.
Leo Bowman, who recently retired after 16 years as a Benton County commissioner, led Tuesday in the District 2 race. Bowman received 43 percent, or 1,671 votes.
Bowman is likely to be challenged in the general election by Tom Moak, who served 12 years on the Kennewick City Council. Moak earned 34 percent, or 1,326 votes, according to the preliminary results.
The District 2 incumbent, Gene Wagner, who has served 12 years as port commissioner, earned just 22 percent, or 846 votes, as of Tuesday evening.
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In the District 1 race, Don Barnes, a commercial broker who was appointed to the port commission about 14 months ago, was leading with 2,010 votes, or more than 37 percent.
And John Givens, Yakima National Bank senior vice president of credit administration, and Danette Layne, a human resources professional, are just 300 votes apart.
Givens received nearly 28 percent of the votes cast so far, or 1,496.
Layne had just over 22 percent, or 1,193 votes, after Tuesday’s count.
The fourth candidate for District 1, Barry Bush, a Benton PUD commissioner, was trailing with 11 percent, or 597 votes, according to the initial tally.
All seven candidates for the two nonpartisan seats have spoken about a desire to help guide the redevelopment of the small general aviation airport, which Port of Kennewick commissioners unanimously decided to close earlier this year.
But just four candidates will make it past the primary election to compete in the Nov. 5 general election, where all Port of Kennewick voters, from West Richland to Finley, will get a chance to vote for both the District 1 and District 2 port commissioners.
Only voters within a district got to cast a ballot for their choice of port commissioner in the primary.
Barnes, with 30-year history with commercial real estate, said he hopes to continue to run a positive campaign and emphasize his priorities for the port.
“I’m going to run on my performance and my record,” said Barnes, who was one of the three commissioners who voted to close Vista Field.
Givens, a Kennewick Public Facilities District board member, said if he emerges as one of the top two candidates, he plans to step up the game and reach out to more voters.
“I plan to do the best I can to show people that I am the right candidate,” said Givens, who has a 37-year history in the banking industry and a 20-year history with ports, including serving as the Port of Kennewick’s executive director.
Layne said she wasn’t surprised to see the votes split considering the active campaigning by the candidates.
Layne, who offers training and executive coaching services, said she is hopeful she’ll advance to the general election ballot.
Bowman said he was pleased with the initial results, but was disappointed in the overall voter turnout. So far, about 28 percent of ballots have been returned, according to preliminary estimates by the Benton County Auditor’s Office. Turnout was projected to reach about 40 percent.
He said he plans to do more doorbelling and placing signs in the next 90 days.
Moak said with three well-known candidates, it was a tough race. “It’s exciting to move forward in the next round,” he said.
Port commissioners earn $1,075 monthly starting next year, plus $104 for each meeting they attend.
Tuesday’s count includes ballots turned in up to about 3 p.m. on Tuesday. The rest of the ballots will be counted starting Wednesday.
Primary election results will be certified on Aug. 20.