KENNEWICK — The neck and neck Benton County District Court judge race is heading for a mandatory recount.
Dan Kathren was ahead of Alex Ekstrom by eight votes after Monday's count.
And Benton County Auditor Brenda Chilton said the county auditor's office likely will have only one to three more ballots to count before results are certified today.
Kathren, a Tri-City lawyer who has served as a judge pro tem for 10 years, had 25,057 votes after Monday's results, or a little more than 50 percent. Ekstrom, an assistant U.S. attorney for Washington's Eastern District, had 25,049 votes, or a little less than 50 percent.
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Ekstrom said he always suspected the race would be close. "The only thing that was surprising was how close it has been," he said.
The two candidates for the Position 3 seat were 0.02 percent apart as of Monday. A mandatory recount is required when the gap is less than 0.5 percent, and a mandatory hand recount occurs when the gap is less than 0.25 percent, Chilton said.
Kathren said he remains "cautiously optimistic" that he will continue to lead in the race.
"I believe the voters can rest assured that whether it is my opponent or me who is ultimately sworn in, the citizens of Benton County will have an excellent judge at their service," he said.
Ekstrom said it's impossible to tell how the recount will turn out. "We've gotten fairly good at waiting," he said.
This will be the first major mandatory hand recount in the county since the 2000 state governor race between Democrat Chris Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi, Chilton said.
The canvassing board will declare a recount today, she said.
The auditor's office will begin the recount Monday, Chilton said. It will take about 10 days, with five days to sort the ballots into precincts and five days to actually count the ballots.
Chilton said the office will bring in temporary staff who helped earlier with the general election.
The four-year position pays an annual salary of $141,710.
Benton County had 64,029 voters participate, or a 72 percent voter turnout. That's a record for voter participation in an off-year election.
Monday's count still leaves the measure to move the county seat from Prosser to Kennewick below the 60 percent approval required for it to pass. About 56 percent were in favor of moving the county seat, while 44 percent opposed it.
The coroner's race showed John Hansens with 51 percent and Alberta Redwing with 49 percent. Redwing trails by 1,268 votes.
Benton County will certify results today at 2 p.m., and the state will certify the results Dec. 2.
Franklin County likely will have a new auditor for the first time in 21 years.
Republican Matt Beaton was 173 votes ahead after Monday's ballot count.
The Pasco real estate appraiser challenged Democrat Zona Lenhart, the 21-year incumbent, for control of the county auditor's office.
Beaton has 8,533 votes, or almost 51 percent, as of Monday. Lenhart had 8,360, or a little more than 49 percent.
The auditor's office indicated that there likely won't be any ballots left to count today. The results should be certified by 5 p.m. today.
The auditor manages 12 employees in four departments -- licensing, elections, recording and accounting -- for an annual salary of $83,782.
Beaton told the Herald in September that he already had begun researching the laws relevant to the auditor's office and preparing for public office.
If elected, Beaton said he would want to rework the auditor's office website to make information more accessible and create a mission statement for the office. Then he said he would look for efficiencies to improve day-to-day operations and develop goals with staff input.
Beaton said he wants small, responsive government. He told the Herald in September that he would close his appraising business if elected.
Franklin County had 17,557 voters participate in the Nov. 2 general election, a 69 percent voter turnout.