Vancouver businessman David Madore unseated Clark County Commissioner Marc Boldt on Tuesday, as both candidates acknowledged the gap would be too much for Boldt to make up even with thousands of votes left to be counted.
Tuesday's returns included approximately 57 percent of voters; elections supervisor Tim Likness estimates final turnout will hit 81 percent. If so, another 57,200 ballots will be counted.
Commissioner Tom Mielke, meanwhile, has a slight lead over Ridgefield businessman Joe Tanner, a Democrat.
Mielke, a Battle Ground-area Republican seeking his second term, leads by 2,311 votes.
Madore leads Boldt, a Hockinson Republican, by 7,971 votes.
"It looks like a very good margin," said Madore, 61. He said he's thankful for Boldt's service.
Boldt, 58, was seeking his third term.
"I'll live with it, and I'm glad it has been a positive campaign," Boldt said. He added he's been inspired by the wide variety of support he received, including from Democrats who rallied around him after the executive board of the Clark County Republican Party disciplined him and then endorsed Madore.
Boldt has acknowledged that he has become more of a moderate since his days as a five-term state representative from the 17th District.
Election watchers at Clark College's Gaiser Hall pointed to the "under votes," or number of voters who didn't vote in the all-Republican race. Approximately 17 percent of voters skipped the Madore-Boldt race, compared with 7 percent of voters who skipped the Mielke-Tanner race. Also, there were 2,207 write-ins in the Madore-Boldt race, compared with 120 in the Mielke-Tanner race.
Madore, an outspoken critic of the Columbia River Crossing and owner of U.S. Digital, spent more than four times as much money as Boldt, $294,126 to $63,762. While
Madore contributed a total of $314,267 to his campaign, Boldt raised $90,183 and did not use any of his own money, according to the Public Disclosure Commission.
Tanner spent $167,345, approximately eight times as much money as Mielke. Tanner's finances include $31,000 of his own money and a $10,000 loan. Mielke spent $21,054 and loaned his campaign $2,750.
Mielke, 70, served four terms as an 18th District state representative and ran for county commissioner twice unsuccessfully before winning in 2008. That year, election night returns showed him trailing Democrat Pam Brokaw but he eventually won by 207 votes.
If the pattern of later votes trending conservative holds, Mielke will extend his lead.
Tanner, 65, said he'll just have to wait for updated election results, which will be released today.
He said he has no second thoughts on how he ran his campaign.
Madore and Mielke won in the districtwide August primaries, with Madore finishing first in a four-way race in District 2 and Mielke finishing first in a five-way race in District 1.
District 1 covers north county and reaches as far south as parts of Orchards and Hazel Dell.
District 2 includes most of Vancouver east of Interstate 205, Camas, Washougal and other parts of east county.
Tuesday's vote was countywide.
Commissioners, among other things, set land-use policies for unincorporated areas, implement federal and state regulations and, by law, have to approve a balanced budget. They also serve as the county's Board of Health and all have seats on both C-Tran's Board of Directors and the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council.
They work full time and currently earn $102,224 a year.
Columbian staff writer Stevie Mathieu contributed to this story.