Record low primary turnout Snoozer puts Ghatan, Shildneck in playoff

Matt Shildneck and Farhad Ghatan - Contributed photos
Matt Shildneck and Farhad Ghatan
— image credit: Contributed photos

Friday Harbor voters registered a big yawn instead of voting in the Town Council Position 4 primary on Tuesday, August 6. Only 29.2% of the town's registered voters selected Farhad Ghatan and Matt Shildneck to continue to the November general election, which may be the lowest election turnout ever for a town election.

Ghatan was the top vote-getter with 184 votes, representing 46.6 percent of the votes. Shildneck garnered 136 votes or 34.4 percent, while incumbent Felix Menjivar took 71 votes, or 18 percent of the town's electorate.

With perhaps 60 votes to be counted at 5 p.m. on Aug. 8, the turnout percentage may rise to 33 percent, but the "top two" is pretty well set. Unofficial estimates put the cost of the town primary - the only item on the ballot - at about $5000, just less than eleven dollars per vote.

None of the three candidates did much campaigning. But Ghatan and Shildneck, who have known each other for years, both vowed to actively court the town's 1,361 registered votes before the Nov. 5 election. Both candidates say there won't be any acrimony between them, and neither candidate expects to spend much money.

"I'm going to enjoy talking with the voters," said Ghatan. "I think things in the town are going in a great direction, and I just want to work to keep that happening."

Shildneck said he is committed to getting elected after twice being passed over for appointments to vacancies on the council. "I want to continue my work on the town Planning Commission and Historic Preservation Review Board as a member of the council," he said.

Both candidates are well-known to many townspeople and have similar local histories, Ghatan as a musician, small businessman and active volunteer, Shildneck as an electrician, small businessman and community volunteer.

Doris Schaller, the county's elections administrator, expects the November turnout to approach the 60 percent levels of previous "off-year" elections.

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