Franklin County Commission incumbents hang onto seats

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldNovember 7, 2012 

Franklin County commissioners Brad Peck and Bob Koch kept their seats despite the turmoil the county has faced after the discovery of an alleged $2.8 million embezzlement by a former county employee.

Both received at least 60 percent of the votes in Tuesday's preliminary election tallies.

For Franklin County District 1, Peck led with 7,232 votes, or almost 66 percent of ballots.

His challenger, Mark Faith, a county building inspector, received 3,758 votes or about 34 percent of those counted so far.

For Franklin County District 2, Koch received 6,612 votes counted so far, or 60 percent.

Pasco Councilman Al Yenney, who is running against him, earned 4,339 votes, or 40 percent.

All four candidates are Republicans.

The alleged embezzlement by Dennis Huston, the county's former public works accounting manager, is one of the topics that has come up during the election. Current commissioners were not in office when the alleged embezzlement began.

Peck said he hopes the "sizable margin" is a reflection of his attitude as an employee of the citizens of Franklin County.

"I am certainly gratified by the level of the support," he said. "It really is humbling to have an excess of 65 percent of your bosses in this type of a performance review, if you will, tell you that they think you are meeting the standard."

The Herald was unable to reach Faith by phone Monday and Tuesday.

During the race, Peck claimed Faith violated state law by registering to vote in the county two months before moving to Pasco and then filing as a qualified candidate in mid-May.

Faith owns a West Richland home in Benton County, where his wife and children still reside. He claimed he met the state's residency rules by renting a room at a friend's home at 3620 Road 92 in early March, registering to vote about a week later, and then filing for office May 14.

The Franklin County Auditor's Office has not received a challenge of Faith's voter registration, said Matt Beaton, county auditor.

According to the challenge form on the Secretary of State's Office, a registered voter or the county prosecutor can file a challenge of a voter registration. It must be done at least 45 days before an election to affect the validity of a ballot.

For District 2, Koch said he was feeling overwhelmed by the initial results.

"I was thinking it was a much closer race," he said.

Koch said he will continue to do the best he can for citizens during the next four years and will look forward to their input.

"I appreciate Franklin County's vote of confidence to keep in the position for another four years," he said.

Yenney said he will reserve his opinion until it is mathematically impossible for the race to change.

"I'm a believer in waiting until it gets down to the end," he said.

So far, 12,940 ballots have been counted. Tuesday's results include ballots processed through Monday. The Franklin County Auditor's Office estimates about 5,900 ballots are left to count.

The county has about 29,700 registered voters, with turnout hovering around 63 percent. That includes ballots in the process of being tabulated.

Beaton estimates turnout will hit 81 percent. County voter turnout in the last presidential election was about 85 percent.

The next update to the ballot count will be this afternoon. Results will be certified Nov. 27.

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