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1 incumbent likely to return to West Richland council

Only one of the three incumbents running for positions on the West Richland City Council was a clear front runner in Tuesday's election.

Incumbent Tony Benegas, running for Position 7, received 1,178 votes, or 58 percent, with his opponent Johan Curtiss getting 848 votes, or 42 percent.

"The people of West Richland have spoken," Benegas said Tuesday night.

"Folks are more interested in going forward than looking to the past. I think that we have a lot of work to do. We need to work together and seek new partners to build the best community that the majority of citizens want to live, work, and sleep in," he said.

Curtiss, who serves on the West Richland Planning Commission, said she will continue to work with other commissioners to help bring more businesses and jobs to the city.

"That's going to be my focus. We have some hard work ahead of us," she said, adding that she wishes Benegas the best of luck in his next four years on the council.

While campaigning, Benegas said he knocked on more than 1,500 doors in West Richland.

"I enjoyed talking to so many of my neighbors. It never ceases to amaze me the brilliance and creativity that so many of my fellow West Richlanders have shared and I hope to continue that dialogue that we started," he said.

During the campaign, Benegas said residents gave him plenty of suggestions as to what they expect of him.

"I am extremely humbled as to the confidence people are placing on my shoulders. There is an old saying, 'To whom much is given, much is required.' I have a lot of work to do and I hope that I can continue to help lead West Richland into the future," he said.

Newcomer Ron Hayden ran for Position 6. He received 1,099 votes, for 54 percent, while incumbent Ken Dobbin, collected 953 votes, or 46 percent.

Hayden took Tuesday's preliminary results as a win. He said he is "immensely proud and honored to be afforded this opportunity to serve my community. My campaign focused on providing West Richland with new ideas and a fresh perspective, especially with the challenges the city faces looking forward."

He also thanked Dobbin for his 18 years of service and unwavering commitment to the city.

"Councilman Dobbin worked diligently to forge relationships with our neighboring cities and to promote the needs of the fire department and Benton County Fire District No. 4. He has earned the recognition and respect of our grateful city for his service," Hayden said.

Dobbin could not be reached for comment on election night.

Robert Perkes was seeking Position 5 on the council in his first run for elected office. He received 1,065 votes, or 54 percent. Incumbent Merle Johnson collected 892 votes, or 46 percent.

After checking voting results Tuesday night, Perkes said, "I'm excited and a little bit overwhelmed with the reality of the job. A lot of people are counting on me and the council and putting a lot of faith into the people who serve."

"I look forward to serving West Richland. Tomorrow I'll put on my work clothes and get to work. The job really starts now," he said.

Incumbent Merle Johnson was unavailable for comment on election night.

Benton County reported 90,642 ballots sent and 30,731 counted, for a 34 percent return, as of 8 p.m. Tuesday. An estimated 13,000 remaining ballots will be counted over the next two days.

Ballots will continue to be counted today and Thursday, with updated results released at the end of each day. The election will be certified Nov. 29.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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