Franklin Co. races fluctuate as more votes counted

PASCO — The vote gap between longtime Franklin County Auditor Zona Lenhart and Republican challenger Matt Beaton narrowed after Wednesday's tally.

Beaton, a real estate appraiser, holds on to an 82-vote lead over the 21-year Democratic incumbent, according to Wednesday's preliminary election results.

In other Franklin County races, Republican Shawn Sant gained a slightly larger lead in his race against his former boss, Prosecutor Steve Lowe.

And Republican Rick Miller maintained 73 percent of the votes in the race for commissioner in the third district, while Republican Josie Koelzer kept her share of the votes at 55 percent in the treasurer race.

The county auditor's office counted 12,781 ballots Wednesday. An estimated 2,000 ballots are left to count.

The next update will be today at 5 p.m. Election results will be certified Nov. 23.

Franklin auditor

Beaton is ahead with 6,241 votes, or a little more than 50 percent, while Lenhart has 6,159 votes, or almost 50 percent.

The race is close to the 0.5 percent gap that triggers a mandatory recount, with a 0.66 percent gap as of Wednesday. Lenhart said Tuesday that she wouldn't be surprised if her race ends up in a recount.

Beaton said he remains "cautiously optimistic" that he will maintain a lead.

"The numbers will play out the way they play out," he said.

The close race shows that Republicans are splitting votes, and party affiliation isn't playing as large a role in the election as some have argued, said the 41-year-old Pasco man.

Lenhart, 57, a Franklin County resident, wasn't available to comment as of deadline. She said Tuesday that she was confident she would end up in the lead after all the ballots were counted.

The auditor manages the county's elections, recording, accounting and licensing departments, which include 12 employees. The job pays $83,782 a year.

Franklin prosecutor

Franklin County may have a new prosecutor in 2011, if Tri-Cities lawyer Shawn Sant keeps his lead.

Sant was ahead by 677 votes, according to Wednesday's count.

Sant, 40, had 6,509 votes, or 53 percent, while Lowe, a Democrat, had 5,832 votes, or 47 percent.

Lowe, 51, said the results hadn't changed much and he would wait to comment until the results are more final. He has been in the position since 1995.

Sant said he was remaining cautious about the results, since more ballots are left to be counted. But he said he was hopeful his lead would continue.

The race seems to be following the pattern in the primary, he said. Sant led the August primary election with 1,060 votes, or about 55 percent, to Lowe's 45 percent.

Sant is an attorney on contract with Benton County to represent indigent defendants. He worked in the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office from 2004-06 as a deputy prosecutor handling cases in Juvenile Court and District Court. He went into private practice in 2007.

The four-year position pays an annual salary of $128,544.

The prosecutor's office handles criminal cases, civil litigation for the county and child support matters. Lowe currently manages an office of 25 total employees, including 11 lawyers.

Franklin treasurer

Republican Josie Koelzer looks like she will be in charge of Franklin County's bank starting in 2011.

The Basin City bookkeeper had a 1,284-vote lead in the race for county treasurer as of Wednesday night.

Koelzer collected 6,798 votes, or 55 percent, while the five-year Democratic incumbent, Tiffany Coffland, had 5,514 votes, or 45 percent.

The treasurer leads the office that's in charge of collecting taxes for all taxing jurisdictions in the county. The position pays $83,782 per year.

Franklin commissioner

Commissioner Rick Miller's lead in the race against fellow Republican Hans "Jochen" Engelke remained the same after Wednesday's count.

Miller had 8,089 votes, or 73 percent, while Engelke had 3,020, or 27 percent, according to the Wednesday preliminary results

Engelke, 53, a Basin City farmer, called Miller on Tuesday night to concede the race.

The county commissioner will receive a salary of $87,590 in 2011.