More ballots for the Nov. 8 election were counted Wednesday — leaving several measures still too close to call.
Franklin County commissioner
Bob Koch lost a percentage point as more ballots were counted Wednesday in his fight to win a fourth four-year term representing rural Franklin County on the board of commissioners.
Updated election results put his lead over challenger Rodney “Rocky” Mullen at 51 percent to Mullen’s 49 percent. With 13,485 ballots counted Wednesday and about 4,300 remaining, Koch received 5,679 votes to Mullen’s 5,380 votes.
Koch declined to declare victory on election night, citing a 3.7 percent spread and the fact that fewer than half of the expected ballots had been counted. The spread narrowed to 2.7 percent Wednesday.
Both men are Republicans with farm roots and business backgrounds.
If Koch’s lead holds, Franklin County will continue to be led by the current three-member commission. Incumbent Brad Peck defeated a challenge by Franklin County Auditor Matt Beaton. The seat held by Rick Miller was not up for election.
The three commissioners will each earn $94,325 beginning in 2017, following a raise awarded in an Election Day session.
4th Congressional District
Rep. Dan Newhouse’s lead over challenger Clint Didier for the 4th Congressional District seat held at about 58 percent to 42 percent as more ballots were counted Wednesday.
Didier is not conceding the race.
About 50 percent of ballots in the district, which includes all or part of eight counties, had not been counted on election night, he said.
“I want the votes counted. People should be heard,” he said.
He’ll reassess in a couple of days, when 70 percent or 80 percent of the ballots are counted, he said.
Wednesday evening the district-wide total was 80,569 votes for Newhouse and 59,538 votes for Didier.
Benton City marijuana business proposition
The vote remained close for a Benton City proposition to allow businesses that sell and grow marijuana.
Tuesday’s tally was 378 in favor of allowing marijuana businesses in the city to 364 against. Wednesday, the lead remained at 14 votes.
Another ballot count is planned Thursday, with 55,802 Benton County ballots counted and about 30,500 left to count.
The vote is advisory. The Benton City Council in April voted to lift a temporary moratorium on marijuana-related businesses, but reversed itself a few weeks later after listening to public comments at a council meeting.
If the council authorizes marijuana businesses, it will join Prosser as one of just two cities in the county to allow them.
West Richland library levy lift
Support for a new way to pay for library services in West Richland increased as additional ballots were counted Wednesday.
The new tally is 2,324 for and 2,251 against. The 73-vote lead in favor of the measure increased from the 19-vote lead in Tuesday’s count.
Another ballot count is planned Thursday.
West Richland has been contracting with Mid-Columbia Libraries for service at its Van Giesen Street library using an unusual funding arrangement.
Voters approved a 2.5 percent tax on telephone, electric and gas bills in 2003 for library services. But with fewer people using landlines — and mobile phones and data plans not covered by the tax — the levy lift on the ballot proposed a new funding plan.
The utility tax would be replaced with a property tax increase of about 45 cents per $1,000 to pay both city maintenance costs on the library building and for the library services contract.