Benton County Commissioner Shon Small had a sizable lead in Tuesday’s District 2 primary, drawing 3,815 votes, or about 49 percent of the vote.
But the race for second place was razor close, with Small’s two challengers separated by 49 votes.
Business leader Timothy Dalton had 1,983 votes, or about 26 percent.
And Brad Taylor, a longtime county employee, was narrowly trailing with 1,934 votes, or 25 percent.
The top two vote-getters will face off in November.
An estimated 10,000 ballots are left to be counted in the county, and the next round of results will be released today. The election results won’t be official until they’re certified Aug. 19.
Small, 46, a Republican from Prosser, spent 20 years in law enforcement with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office before running for the commissioner position four years ago.
He unseated longtime Commissioner Max Benitz Jr. in 2010.
Small has pointed to accomplishments during his tenure from formation of the county’s first gang task force to changes in county government to gain efficiency, including reorganization of the information technology department.
He said Tuesday night that he’s pleased with the results. “I’ve been a public servant for 20-plus years. I still put the public as my number one priority,” he said. “I will continue to work very hard so I can have another four years serving the citizens of Benton County.”
Dalton is the other Republican in the race.
The 55-year-old from Kennewick works as executive director of the Historic Downtown Kennewick Partnership. He’s pointed to his experience in the business world and said he sees economic development in the county as the engine for improving public safety and other public services.
He said he feels the initial election results show that his message is getting through and “that I can provide the kind of leadership the county is looking for.”
Dalton and Small have faced off before. Dalton also challenged Benitz in 2010 for the District 2 seat but was eliminated in the primary.
Taylor, 57, a Democrat from Prosser, has spent 25 years with the county’s Public Works department. He’s also a labor leader, serving as president of Teamsters Local 839.
He’s described himself as “the working guy, the blue collar worker who represents blue collar workers,” and said he wants to change the atmosphere within county government.
He said he’ll be keeping tabs on the results as more ballots are counted. “I’d like to thank all the voters who helped me and contributed to my campaign and voted for me. Hopefully, we’ll get to go on” to November, he said.
The commissioner position has a term of four years. The salary in 2015 will be $103,063.
Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @saraTCHerald