Benton-Probst Senate race 'still too close to call'

One of two 17th District House races is also still uncertain

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 
photoJulie Olson

Two close races in the 17th Legislative District have candidates eagerly awaiting the next count of ballots, due late this afternoon.

Tuesday's cliffhanger for the 17th's Senate seat has current state Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, holding a lead of 222 votes over incumbent Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver.

Democrats congratulated Probst as the local party gathered Tuesday night at the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay. But Probst said he's not celebrating yet.

"We'll see," Probst said to one supporter. "It's still too close to call."

Thus far, Probst has attracted 50.2 percent of the vote. Probst said he's feeling good about his position.

Benton said he was feeling "very positive" about Tuesday evening's preliminary results. He was surrounded by supporters during a Republican celebration at Heathman Lodge in Vancouver.

"It's quite traditional to be where we're at right now," Benton said. "We feel confident that when the rest of the votes are counted, we will prevail."

Also close after the first count is the race for the House seat Probst is vacating. Republican Julie Olson and Democrat Monica Stonier were separated by 78 votes as of Tuesday night.

Olson led the race with 50.06 percent of the vote.

"We're feeling very good about (our position)," Olson said. "Typically, the later votes in the 17th break our way."

Stonier said she, too, is pleased with the initial outcome.

"I'm feeling good," Stonier said. "We just hope (the lead) is going to shrink up and come out our way."

Both Olson and Stonier said they we're happy with their campaigns and grateful for voters' support.

State Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, had a comfortable lead, with 55.46 percent of the vote, over Democrat Jim Gizzi.

Harris said he's not only comfortable with his own position, but also believes both Benton and Olson will come out ahead in the next count.

"I think we will see in the late ballots that Republicans will tick up two or three points," Harris said, noting that late votes typically sway conservatively. "That looks good for Julie and for Sen. Benton. I do believe the 17th will be represented by all Republicans."

The 17th District covers Vancouver east of Interstate 205, extending to Northeast 219th Street to include Orchards, Brush Prairie and Pleasant Valley.

Slightly less than 56 percent of the 75,564 ballots mailed to registered voters was counted Tuesday evening. Elections officials are predicting an 81 percent voter turnout in Clark County. If the 17th matches that turnout, approximately 19,000 more votes will be counted before the election is certified.

Columbian staff writer Stevie Mathieu contributed to this story.