It was a hard-fought battle, but it appears Cory Wright will retain his position as Kittitas County Commissioner.

With approximately 5,000 ballots counted as of 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wright leads Nancy Lillquist by approximately 1,200 votes (3,088 to 1,864), cementing his retention of the District 1 seat. Wright was appointed last year to replace Paul Jewell, who resigned to take take another professional position. Wright will have to run again for a full term in 2020.

It was all smiles at Wright’s watch party, which was held Tuesday night at the Ellensburg’s historic train depot. As he took it all in, Wright said he was humbled by the support.

“It was a fantastic show of support,” he said. “I appreciate everybody coming down and being a part of the party.”

As the results came in, Wright said he was thrilled by what he saw.

“The voters have spoken,” he said. “They want to see a turn towards new processes and new people. I congratulate Nancy on a campaign well run, and I think she’s done a wonderful job in the city. I look forward to working with her.”

Reflecting on the last few weeks, Wright said the process was exhausting, but worth every minute.

“The people have been coming out of the woodwork honestly to say that they believed in me, that they were confident in me,” he said. “I’ve been very appreciative of those folks reaching out. It’s just been a lot of pounding the pavement, knocking on doors, getting the signs out and making sure that people remember to vote.”

Now that the election cycle is over, Wright said he plans on focusing on the tasks at hand for the county. Priorities include hiring a full-time airport manager for Bowers Field and strengthening the county’s relationship with the city of Ellensburg as it pertains to economic growth in unincorporated growth areas.

“We’re going to hit the ground running again,” he said.

DEMOCRATIC EFFORTS

Kittitas County Democrats gathered Tuesday night at Cornerstone Pie to await the election results. As they waited, they enthusiastically watched cable news that talked of Democratic gains in other parts of the country. As the results came in for our county, however, the mood quickly turned somber, with Lillquist showing surprise at the margin.

“I’m disappointed,” she said. “I really thought it would be closer. I thought we ran a good campaign.”

Lillquist said the efforts put in by the campaign over the course of the election was extensive in scope.

“We hit as many precincts as we could,” she said. “Almost all of the city precincts close enough to walk. We canvassed hard, and we really target our mailing and our get-out-the vote effort was really aggressive in terms of calling people and reminding them to vote. I don’t know what more we could have done as a campaign.”

When asked if she would consider running again for the position in 2020, Lillquist made it clear she was still processing the margins shown in the ballots counted on Tuesday night.

“I am being encouraged to not make any decisions, but I don’t know why anything would turn out differently next time,” she said. “It might be time for someone else to step up.”

Despite being surprised by the margin, Lillquist made it clear that she expected a challenge going into the election.

“I knew going in that it would be an uphill battle running as a Democrat in a Republican-leaning county,” she said. “I thought that my experience and reputation would carry me further than it did with the preliminary results.”

Despite the loss, Lillquist said she will maintain her position on the Ellensburg City Council.

“I will continue to be involved and do what I can for the city of Ellensburg as a city council member,” she said.

Lillquist said Wright left her a message Tuesday night offering to work with her on issues that face both the county and city.

“I will take him up on that and work with him and the rest of the board of county commissioners to do good things for our community,” she said.

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