4 votes separate Franklin Co. auditor candidates

PASCO — A razor-thin margin of four votes kept Republican challenger Matt Beaton ahead of incumbent Democrat Auditor Zona Lenhart following Friday's count of ballots in Franklin County.

The race remains unpredictable, with about 800 ballots to be counted Monday.

Lenhart has steadily eroded Beaton's 123-voted lead from Tuesday's voting. Neither could be reached for comment Friday evening.

Beaton had 7,910 votes, or 50.01 percent, as of 5 p.m. Lenhart had 7,906 votes, or 49.99 percent. That 0.02 percent margin is within the 0.5 percent difference that would trigger a mandatory recount.

The race for Franklin County prosecutor ended Friday before the ballot count results were released. Incumbent Steve Lowe acknowledged earlier in the day he was conceding to challenger Shawn Sant.

Lowe said he sent a congratulatory note to Sant and offered to help with the transition. Lowe was 811 votes behind Sant on Thursday with about 900 ballots left to count, and on Friday was down by 723.

Sant held 8,223 votes for 52.3 percent, and Lowe had 7,500 votes for 47.7 percent.

In Benton County, the results were unaffected in a Friday tally of 4,200 more ballots, with Dan Kathren 324 votes in front of Alex Ekstrom for position 3 on Benton County District Court. The count Friday was 21,373 votes, or 50.4 percent, for Kathren and 21,049 votes, or 49.6 percent, for Ekstrom.

John Hansens held fast to his lead over Alberta Redwing for county coroner, and the measure to relocate the Benton County seat from Prosser to Kennewick gained little ground in reaching the needed 60 percent supermajority. It had 29,273 votes, or 56.3 percent, in support of relocation, and 22,752, or 43.7 percent, opposed.

Both counties report strong voter participation, with turnouts of 64.7 percent of Franklin County's 25,349 registered voters and 60.5 percent of Benton County's 88,498 registered voters.

Statewide turnout was expected to surpass the predicted 66 percent.

Democrats have pulled ahead in a number of close races statewide as last-minute ballots were counted. Secretary of State Sam Reed's office predicted Friday voter turnout in this year's election could exceed 70 percent.

The highest turnout the state has ever seen for a midterm election was just under 72 percent in 1970.