More than a month after Election Day, the election season has finally ended for the four 17th District candidates who were locked in tight races that triggered recounts under state law.
Democrat Monica Stonier has won her bid for election to the state House by 140 votes, according to the outcome of a hand recount announced Friday by the Clark County Elections Department. Official election results certified Friday show that Republican Don Benton won his race for re-election by 76 votes over Democratic rival Tim Probst.
“I feel great,” Stonier said on Friday, after learning the outcome of the recount in her race. “It’s a humbling sense of responsibility to work in the legislature on behalf of the district. … This race goes to show that every vote counts.”
On election night, Stonier’s Republican challenger, Julie Olson, had a 78-vote lead. As ballots continued to be counted after Elec
tion Day, Stonier captured a lead. Heading into the recount, Stonier had 139 more votes than Olson.
According to the official recount results, 27,450 ballots in the 17th District contained votes for Stonier while 27,310 ballots contained votes for Olson.
On Friday afternoon, Olson said she left Stonier a concession by voice mail. Although she didn’t win, Olson said she’ll put the effort she made to run for the office in her “personal win column.”
Olson, who has a year left in her term as chair of the Ridgefield School Board, said she isn’t sure if she’ll run for a higher office again.
“I don’t know what my future is at this point,” she said. She also said that the way the recount was conducted “should give everyone some confidence in the system.”
A recount is required for races in which less than 2,000 votes and less than half a percentage point separate the candidates. That recount must be done by hand if fewer than 150 votes and less than a quarter of a percentage point separate the candidates.
A little more than one quarter of a percentage point separated Stonier and Olson. Election officials decided to hand recount this race, too, because their equipment prohibits them from feeding the ballots through a second time.
The Stonier-Olson recount was the second recount the county’s election officials tackled in the 2012 general election. Election officials finished a recount in the 17th District Senate race between Benton and Probst on Wednesday.
Rather than seek re-election to the House, Probst decided to run against Benton — Stonier and Olson ran to replace Probst. Stonier will be sworn in next month as the next legislative session begins.
Stonier said she is aware that she won by a slim margin and said she aims to represent all the people in 17th District, not just those who voted for her.
“I’ll be sure to represent the issues that the district feels strongly about,” Stonier said, adding that she also will focus her efforts on educational issues.
Recounts rare, but Clark County has seen its share
Laborious manual recounts, the ones conducted by hand and under a scrutinizing eye, are rare in Clark County.
But the 17th legislative district, which saw two manual recounts last week, is no stranger to the process.
In 1988, a manual recount was conducted in the 17th District Senate race between Republican George Rohrbacher and Democrat Dean Sutherland. The 17th was much larger back then, stretching through Skamania County and into Klickitat County.
The election was close enough to warrant a recount. In Clark County, Sutherland actually lost six votes, but kept his lead with 12,299 votes. Rohrbacher received 11,050 votes in Clark County.
After the final, multi-county count was completed, Sutherland won the seat by 153 votes.
And just as the 17th District has been watched this year, the 1988 election had the state’s attention as it could have affected which party had majority control of the Senate. In the end, even though Sutherland won, the Republicans controlled the Senate 25-24.
Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey checked the numbers on county recounts last week. Since 1980, the county has seen seven recounts conducted by hand. And to have two manual recounts in one election, as the 17th District did, has never happened in at least those 32 years.
“Discussing that with (elections supervisor) Tim Likness, he confirms we have never had two manual recounts in the same election in his over 30 years,” Kimsey said.
• 2005 general election: A race for a director position on the Battle Ground School District was separated by 11 votes after the first count. The recount closed the gap slightly, but Richard C. Kent kept his lead and defeated John Karvonen.
• 2004 general election: Kimsey calls it “the big one,” as 162,875 local votes had to be recounted in the gubernatorial election between Democrat Christine Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi. In Clark County, both candidates gained votes, with Rossi expanding his lead over Gregoire by six votes. Rossi took 85,924 votes in the county while Gregoire received 72,828. After three statewide recounts it was Gregoire who took the election with just 129 votes more than Rossi.
• 1995 general election: An election for a Battle Ground City Council position was separated by just two votes after the first count. Bob Brown expanded his lead by one vote in the recount, winning with 518 votes. His opponent, John T. Jordan, collected 515 votes.
• 1991 primary election: Dan Kuhl was the runaway victor in the primary for Ridgefield City Council with 143 votes. But opponents Willie Bischoff and Gary Thornton tied with 29 votes. A recount didn’t change things as the two remained locked in a tie. Thornton won a coin flip, and moved on to the general election where he was again defeated by Kuhl.
• 1989 general election: Cathy Wooldridge Winston and Roxanne Klanke remained tied at 64 votes for a position on the La Center City Council after a recount. A coin flip determined the election in favor of Winston.
• 1988 general election: The race between Rohrbacher and Sutherland mentioned above is the only time in the 32 years of results where a candidate lost votes in a recount.
• 1983 primary election: Tied at 75 votes apiece after the recount, Conrad Geiger defeated Michael J. Lyons by winning a drawing in the primary for Fire District No. 6.
A few races have been decided by coin flip which did not require a manual recount. This year a Republican precinct committee officer race ended in a tie, but there are no provisions in the law to recount those races by hand. Last year, a Woodland City Council race which resulted in a tie was recounted by Cowlitz County.