Local news

Barlow concedes election to Parker

Driscoll leads Ahern in race for 6th District’s other House seat

OLYMPIA — Two years after ousting an incumbent to claim a seat in the state House of Representatives, Rep. Don Barlow finds himself on the opposite end of the equation. After an expensive, close race, Barlow, D-Spokane, has lost to Republican challenger Kevin Parker.

A second race in the same western-Spokane district, meanwhile, remains too close to call and could be headed for a mandatory recount.

After the latest ballots were counted Thursday night, Democratic challenger John Driscoll was 87 votes ahead of state Rep. John Ahern, D-Spokane, with more than 66,000 votes cast. Driscoll’s initial lead over Ahern has now shrunk to 50.07 percent to Ahern’s 49.93 percent – and the later ballots have been favoring Ahern.

If the final gap between the candidates is less than half a percent, election law calls for an automatic recount of the ballots.

Although thousands of ballots remain to be counted, Parker’s lead over Barlow grew to nearly 4,000 votes with Thursday night’s tally. Parker now has nearly 53 percent to Barlow’s 47 percent.

Reached at home on Thursday morning, Barlow conceded that he’d likely lost.

“I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that I’m not going to be re-elected,” he said.

He said he expected the later ballots to trend Republican, but had hoped for a larger cushion of initial Democratic votes.

Both sides in the Driscoll/Ahern race are watching the numbers closely.

“I wish there was more we could do,” said Driscoll campaign manager Meghan Quinn. “At this point, it’s kind of a waiting game. … It’s definitely going to be really close.”

In 2006, Barlow narrowly edged out Republican incumbent John Serben by 260 votes. Barlow and state Sen. Chris Marr, also elected that year, were the first Democratic lawmakers elected for decades in the 6th Legislative District, a crescent-shaped area wrapping around Spokane from the west. Even amid 2006’s “tsunami” of votes for Democratic lawmakers in Washington, the Democratic coup in Spokane stunned Republican Party leaders.

Both parties were clearly hoping to gain ground in the district this time.

“I knew it was going to be a tough election,” Barlow said. “The second time around, I knew I was the target.”

Money poured into the battleground district, with candidates and their allies raising more than $800,000 this year.

Barlow said he’ll miss the activity and friends in the Legislature, but feels he got a lot done in just two years. He sponsored bills tightening training requirements for counselors, establishing an Eastern Washington veterans’ cemetery and improving state funding for education. He said he plans to return to his longtime career as a teacher and counselor.

“When one door closes, another one opens,” he said.

Parker praised Barlow as an honorable man and said he was touched by personal stories of people he met during the campaign.

“It was a long journey but a very enjoyable one,” Parker said.

He added that he hopes to bring change to Olympia, push for tighter state budgeting, and join forces with other Eastern Washington lawmakers to represent the region. High on the agenda: moving forward with the North Spokane Corridor project.

“I want to earn the respect even of those who did not vote for me,” he said.

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