Benton, Stonier ahead in tight legislative races

Benton leads Probst by 65 votes, Stonier leads Olson by 39

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

Updated: November 13, 2012, 7:30 PM

 

Election Results

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Incumbent Don Benton once again pulled ahead of his Democratic rival, Tim Probst, in the too-close-to-call 17th District Senate race, according to updated election results released Tuesday.

Benton leads by 65 votes, and the Clark County Elections Department still has more than 6,400 ballots from across the county to count. Also, an estimated 200 military or overseas ballots are still on their way in the mail.

The 17th District Senate race, as well one House race in the same district, could be headed for a manual recount because they are so close, Clark County Elections Supervisor Tim Likness said.

That House race is between Democrat Monica Stonier and Republican Julie Olson. They are running to replace Probst, who decided to run for the 17th District Senate seat rather than seek re-election to a third House term.

Stonier leads Olson by 39 votes, according to Tuesday’s election results.

The election updates released by Clark County nearly every day have placed all four legislative candidates in the lead at one point or another. On the night of the Nov. 6 election, Probst led Benton by 222 votes. Benton pulled ahead of Probst by 62 votes on Thursday. The following day, Probst led by 16 votes.

The ballot-counting process has slowed this week as election officials have moved on to working with trickier ballots. Special attention must be paid to ballots that have write-in candidates or changed votes, ballots filled out using pencil or the wrong color ink, and ballots with suspicious signatures.

“We did all the easy stuff last week, and we’re digging into the harder stuff this week,” Likness said.

More than $1.1 million was spent on the 17th District Senate race by the candidates and their supporters.

Currently, Democrats hold a 27-22 majority in the Senate. If Benton wins, that Democratic majority would be knocked down to 26-23. There are also a couple of philosophically conservative Democrats in the Senate who could tip that balance by siding with Republicans on certain political issues.

Meanwhile, the state House of Representatives has a 56-42 Democratic majority.

A total of 2,339 ballots were counted Tuesday at the Clark County Elections Office. Of those, 750 were from the 17th Legislative District.

If Tuesday’s results were the final results, a recount would commence for both legislative races, Likness said.

County election officials begin a recount in races that are closer than 2,000 votes and closer than one-half of a percentage point, Likness said. On Tuesday, Benton had 49.97 percent of the vote while Probst had 49.85 percent of the vote. Olson had 49.92 percent of the vote, while Stonier had 49.99 percent.

Likness said that recount would likely begin during the first week of December. Election results aren’t certified until 21 days after an election, and the 17th District ballots must be separated from the rest of the county’s ballots.

Likness said he did not know how long each recount would take.

“We’ve never done a recount this big with our voting system,” he said.

On Tuesday, elections officials received 92 additional ballots, bringing their total ballots received up to 192,662. So far, Clark County’s voter turnout is at 79.2 percent.

The next report from the Clark County Elections Department is expected to be released Wednesday afternoon.