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Auburn mayoral candidates ready for decision day

By this late date in any election cycle, less than a week from the big day, almost everybody is eager to get it over and done with.

And perhaps no one more so than the weary, footsore, sometimes bruised candidates themselves.

That's true of mayoral candidates and fellow councilmembers Nancy Backus and John Partridge.

General election mail-in ballots are due Tuesday. The winner succeeds Pete Lewis who has decided not to seek a fourth term.

First results are expected around 8 p.m. from King County Elections.

Six council candidates are vying for three seats on the council: Claude DaCorsi vs. Jodi-Riker Yap; incumbent Rich Wagner vs. Michelle Binetti; and locksmith Frank Lonergan and community activist Yolanda Trout.

"Yes, I am looking forward to it being over," Backus said Monday, after one of her City committee meetings. "It's been 10 months. We announced in January. It's time for it to be over."

Partridge referred to "an exhausting," seven day-a-week process.

"You go to bed thinking about it," Partridge said, "and you wake up thinking about it. It never stops. From that standpoint, it's going to be exciting to get on to the next step.

"The fact is that life doesn't stop just because you're running a campaign," he said. "You still have a marriage, you still have a family, you still have an occupation. And on top of that, Nancy and I are both councilmembers, so we have all of our same duties in addition to what we're doing in the campaign."

Assessing her prospects on Nov. 5, Backus is taking nothing for granted, assuming nothing, despite her strong showing in the August primary.

"I'm not going to assume that's the way it'll be that night. I kind of run like we're the underdog and hope for the very best," she said. "We've got lots of very diverse supporters. It's proof we're not there for special interest groups but because a wide swath of people believe that I am the candidate to keep Auburn moving forward."

Said Partridge, "I think I'm realistic, that I've got as good a chance as Nancy has. I think we're both very good candidates, we're both qualified. We just have different qualifications and styles. I think if people get out and vote — and I'm hoping for an excellent voter turnout —  the better the turnout, the better my chances."

Backus is proud of how her campaign has stuck to its game plan.

"One of the things I have said from the very beginning to all of our volunteers is that we are not going to run a negative campaign, and we are not going to get in the mud," Backus said. "That's not who I am, and if that's who I have to be to win, then I don't want it. I think we've done a pretty good job of staying out of that mud.

"There's been some finger pointing and things, but we're trying to stay positive. On our website we even have a "Rumor Central" where we try to dispel any of those rumors or half-truths and let people know where they can go to find more information."

Partridge grades any campaign on the effort put into it and by its interaction with the community.

"I feel that we had an excellent opportunity to do what campaigns do, which is to listen to the public and be engaged. I feel I had ample time and opportunity to do that, so I would assess the campaign as very successful in terms of engaging the public and getting the message out. I don't feel that we could have done any better, as far as that goes," Partridge said. "Obviously voters now have the chance to respond, and I feel like they've got the information they need to make a good decision."

Both candidates said the campaign has been "extremely humbling," one long roller-coaster ride of emotions.

For Backus, it's the first time in her political career that she's ever had an opponent.

"I didn't have to do a great deal for those past campaigns. I was still out in the community because that's what I like to do. But this has been really humbling. To be out somewhere and have somebody come up and say, 'I'm behind you, I believe in you,' it can be surreal at times. And I take every one of them to heart. And if there is a criticism or a critique, I take that to heart, too."

"We've been humbled by the level of community support both financially and with effort," Partridge said. "You feel very responsible for that, when people trust you to that degree. And it makes you want to work all the harder. Really, a campaign is about the people, it's about the community. It's not about you, it's about the people you represent. I tell people 'this is about picking the person that best represents you and your interests and the future of this community.' I take that very seriously."

One of the toughest trials, Backus said, has been to read things less than complimentary about her or her campaign in the local newspaper.

"When we first started this process, I probably would have been in tears reading those. Now, I'm a lot stronger. I still don't like them. Nobody likes to read negative things or hear negative things said about them, but I can deal with it a lot better. It's made me a lot stronger person."

Backus said her husband, Kemon, and her daughter, Lucky — 5 years old when Backus first sat on the City Council — are keen to see this campaign to its close.

"I always wanted Lucky to have an understanding of the privilege and the responsibility of giving back to the community, and I'm proud to say she gets it. She enjoys the volunteering. It's not just volunteering with me, but she has also done volunteering work at her school. As for my husband, I don't know if this would have been his ultimate choice for my career goal, but he's supportive. He just doesn't want to see me get hurt ... He's not going to be the first dude of Auburn. This is my job. He's supportive of course, but we're not electing the mayor's spouse. We're electing a mayor to do a job for the City."

Was it awkward for the two opponents to sit next to other on the City Council?

"Absolutely not," Partridge said. "I think it's been handled very professionally. Nancy and I both love the community, and we're professional about our work ... But I'm definitely ready for Nov. 5."

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