Write-in Hagans wins Kahlotus council spot on coin toss Monday

Bob Hagans called "heads" as the coin flipped in the air, and that prediction allowed him to win a Kahlotus City Council seat Monday.

Hagans, a write-in candidate, was declared the victor in the Position 5 race after a recount at the Franklin County Elections Center in Pasco.

The recount confirmed Hagans and Molly Robitaille --the only candidate who filed for the position -- were tied at 21 votes each, said Matt Beaton, Franklin County auditor.

Robitaille plans to challenge the results based on the legality of Hagans as a write-in candidate, said her husband, Michael, in an email to the Herald.

The Robitailles cited state law, claiming Hagans did not properly file as a write-in candidate.

Hagans did not declare as a write-in candidate, but that is not required to be considered a valid candidate, Diana Killian, Franklin County Elections administrator told the Herald last week.

Hagans told the Herald last month that he intended to file for the position but called too late. He mentioned to a few people that he had planned to run, and word got around the small community about 50 miles northeast of Pasco.

It took less than 30 minutes to recount by hand the 71 ballots submitted by Kahlotus voters, Beaton said. The town has 99 residents registered to vote.

Some voters who did return a ballot did not cast a vote on the position, and others voted for a different write-in candidate, he said.

Neither of the candidates was present during the recount, Beaton said.

Hagans, 65, got to call the coin toss by phone because election rules stipulate that the candidate whose last name comes first in the alphabet gets to make the call, Beaton said.

State law requires that ties be decided by lot, and Franklin County uses a coin toss to fulfill that requirement.

"It really illustrates the importance of every single vote," Beaton said. "It really can come down to a coin flip."

The county amended the certification of the general election, Beaton said.

Hagans, a Kahlotus resident since 1978, hopes to see the city receive a grant to build a children's park similar to the one in Irrigon, Ore.

He said Monday that he plans to familiarize himself with the rest of the council's agenda and go from there.

Robitaille, 34, said she had hoped to create a low-income, disability and senior rate for water and garbage service because a number of seniors on a fixed income would benefit. She also said she wasn't sure if she would run again for the city council.

The last recount in Franklin County was in the 2006 primary election for Franklin PUD commissioner, Position 3. Del Lathim won the hand recount against Ricardo Espinoza by two votes, but Lathim lost the general election to incumbent Stuart Nelson.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com