Bellingham’s water fluoridation ballot measure hung on to its narrow lead with a 50.92 percent yes vote as counting continued Wednesday.
Just 169 votes separated the two sides out of 9,225 votes counted. A simple majority vote is required to pass the measure.
“I still feel confident we’re going to prevail,” said David Hemion, assistant executive director of the Washington State Dental Association and campaign manager for Bellingham Families for Fluoride.
More results are expected today.
“I’m hoping we maintain that 2 percent (lead)” said Curt Smith, co-chair of the pro-fluoride committee. “It would be lovely if we could pick up another percentage or two.”
In the meantime, both sides in the controversial issue are deciding what to do next.
“We’re regrouping,” said Danelle Weaver, treasurer of the anti-fluoride Healthy Goals for Bellingham. “But we’re definitely not giving up at this point.”
Weaver said on election night that amassing a no vote of almost 50 percent against such a well-funded pro-fluoridation campaign was “a victory in itself.” Backers of the measure raised more than $250,000, while opponents raised more than $12,000.
Organizers of the campaign against fluoridation were to meet Wednesday night to discuss their next step, particularly if the measure passes.
“What are our options and what do we want to do as a group?” Weaver said. “How far do we want to take it?”
A lawsuit is “one of our least likeable options,” she said. “It would be our absolute, last-ditch effort.”
The board of directors of the state dental association, which gave $68,549 in cash and in-kind contributions to the campaign to fluoridate Bellingham’s water, is meeting Friday, Hemion said.
If the measure loses, it would deter pursuit of fluoridation voting in other communities, Hemion said. “It would demonstrate the difficulty in bringing a very complex issue to the public.”
But a loss wouldn’t rule out the possibility of taking the issue to voters, he said.
Still, it was too early to say whether fluoride supporters would try again in Bellingham if the measure fails here, he said.