Both of the contested races in Washington’s 17th Legislative District were too close to call Tuesday night, with one leaning toward the Republican incumbent and the other toward a Democratic challenger.
Preliminary vote counts in the 17th District show incumbent Sen. Lynda Wilson, a Republican, with a narrow lead over her challenger, Democrat Daniel Smith. Wilson earned 51.95 percent of the vote in the early tally, compared with Smith’s 48.05 percent.
Those initial ballot returns also show Tanisha Harris, a Democrat, leading incumbent Republican Rep. Vicki Kraft, 51.24 percent to 48.76 percent.
Neither tally is final — around 70,000 votes remain to be counted in Clark County, with a portion of those in the 17th District. The district encompasses east Vancouver, the southern portion of Battle Ground and parts of unincorporated Clark County.
Harris said Tuesday night that she’s “cautiously optimistic.”
“We are happy, but we’re going to remain cautious. We’re confident that we can hold our lead,” Harris said. “It’s considered a purple district, a swing district, even if we’ve been represented by Republicans.”
Kraft and Harris ran against each other before, in 2018. Kraft had emerged from that race with a margin of 859 votes.
Harris expected a nail-biter again tonight, she added.
“We’re used to close races in the 17th,” Harris said. “We know there are still votes to be counted, and we’re going to respect those voters.”
Kraft did not return The Columbian’s phoned request for comment.
The Senate race showed a similarly narrow margin on election night, with Wilson leading Smith by 2,545 ballots.
“I’m feeling pretty confident,” Wilson said.
“If history is any clue as to what will happen going forward, I will continue to collect votes over the next couple of days,” Wilson added, referring to her 2016 election — she had been winning with 54 percent on election night, and her lead widened slightly over the coming days.
In August’s primary election, Smith had trailed Wilson by 11 percent. He got an October boost from Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, who campaigned with both Smith and Harris in a move indicating that he thought the statehouse seats were up for grabs.
“I think it’s exactly how we thought it would be — really close at this point, a lot of ballots to be counted. We’re going to wait and see over the next day or two,” Smith said. “We will continue to analyze the numbers as we come in, and probably be refreshing our screens.”
The other 17th District House seat will go to incumbent Republican Rep. Paul Harris, whose opponent, fellow Republican Bryan White, dropped out before Election Day. Paul Harris earned 71.59 percent of the vote, preliminary tallies show.
The Clark County Elections Office will post its next ballot count update on its website late this afternoon, according to County Auditor Greg Kimsey.