PATEROS, Wash. – A write-in candidate for Pateros mayor who got involved in town politics in an effort to keep pygmy goats is in a dead heat with a 12-year mayor in a race that could end with a coin toss.
After the third round of ballot counting Wednesday, Mayor Gail Howe and her challenger, Liberty Harrison, both have 71 votes.
Howe said she’s shocked at the tie vote, given her experience, which also includes 3 years on the Pateros City Council, a degree in business administration and economics, and a successful career in Seattle.
Harrison said it never occurred to her to run for mayor until the city notified her this summer that her pygmy goats violated a city ordinance that doesn’t allow farm animals in town. “You can have rabbits, iguanas, even honey bees are domesticated pets. But not pygmy goats,” she said.
No other ballots are likely to arrive by mail that were postmarked by the Nov. 5 deadline, “unless they’re coming from Timbuktu or someplace like that,” said Mila Jury, Okanogan County deputy auditor.
But there are some uncounted ballots from around the county without signatures, or on which signatures need to be validated, she said. Those haven’t been separated by precinct, so she doesn’t know if any involve the Pateros mayor race.
If it remains tied on Nov. 26, when ballots are certified – or if it’s within one-half of one percent – the county will do an automatic recount, Jury said. If it’s still tied, the race will be decided with the flip of a coin.
It’s not very common to have a race end up in a tie, but it does happen, Jury said. “We only have one every few years, usually on an odd-year election when you have all these smaller districts,” she said. “Usually they’ve had some controversy and the two people are split on it,” she said.
Both Howe and Harrison said they don’t think Harrison’s attempt to keep her two 35-pound goats in town was a big controversy among voters.
But it is what spurred her to run. “After getting involved and going to City Council meetings for several months and seeing how things were going, it really sparked a light in me,” she said.
Howe said it was a previous council that made it unlawful to keep goats in town. This council decided only that pygmy goats fit the definition of a farm animal, rather than a pet. Odor and noise were mentioned in the discussion, she said.
Harrison said she was disappointed by the decision. “They gave us 14 days to get rid of them, or they were going to fine us $250 every day,” she said. “We moved them a block down the street – 50 yards out of city limits.”
If she wins, Harrison said, classifying pygmy goats as pets will not be her top priority. “There are some municipal codes that haven’t been updated since the ’70s, and a lot of ordinances,” she said. “And Gail’s done some great things to the town, with the PUD and parks, and the water. I would love to continue on with stuff like that,” she said.
But win or lose, the goat issue isn’t behind her. “We will fight to the bitter end for our goats,” she said.