Beaton's lead grows in Franklin Co. auditor's race

PASCO — Franklin County may have a new county auditor for the first time in more than two decades.

Republican Matt Beaton has increased his lead over the 21-year Democratic incumbent from four votes to 125 votes after Monday's ballot count.

But the conclusion of the race remains unclear while an estimated 150 more ballots remain to be counted before results are finalized.

Beaton has 8,421 votes, or a little more than 50 percent, while Zona Lenhart has 8,296 votes, or a little under 50 percent, according to Monday's results.

"It is what it is," Lenhart said of the results.

Beaton, a real estate appraiser, said he was encouraged that he had the largest lead yet in the race.

But although his chances of winning have improved, Beaton said he wasn't prepared Monday to consider it a victory.

The gap between candidates has moved outside the 0.5 percent range that triggers a mandatory recount.

Now, Beaton is ahead by 0.74 percent of the votes.

A recount looked likely on Friday after Lenhart eroded Beaton's lead to four votes.

But Lenhart said Monday that she's not anticipating a mandatory recount in the auditor race anymore.

Lenhart, 57, a Franklin County resident, said it's typical to have 25 to 100 ballots left to count. Some will come from members of the military and others will be postmarked by election day, but delayed in the mail. The office also keeps some ballots to count in the end so that voter privacy is protected.

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

As of Monday, 17,360 ballots had been counted and Franklin County's voter turnout for the general election was about 68 percent.

The next count will be at 5 p.m. Nov. 22. Results will be certified by the county on Nov. 23, and by the state on Dec. 2.

Benton County

A Monday count of remaining ballots in Benton County made little difference in key decisions.

The tally on a total of 57,997 ballots gave 58.1 percent, or 31,557 votes, to remove the county seat from Prosser to Kennewick, with 43.8 percent, or 24,631 votes, to leave it in Prosser. A 60 percent supermajority is required.

About 4,000 ballots remain to be counted, said Auditor Brenda Chilton.

Monday's tallies show Position 3 District Court candidate Dan Kathren at 50.2 percent, for 22,882 votes, leading Alex Ekstrom's 49.8 percent, or 22,676 votes. That leaves Ekstrom trailing by 206 votes.

The coroner's race remains unchanged with John Hansens holding 51.2 percent, or 24,308 votes, and Alberta Redwing with 48.8 percent, at 23,143 votes.