Challenger leads Franklin County prosecutor's race

A 566-vote lead stands between a Tri-City lawyer's quest to oust Franklin County's chief law enforcement officer.

Preliminary results from Tuesday's election show Shawn Sant with 5,241 votes, or 53 percent. He is trying to unseat his former boss, Prosecutor Steve Lowe, who has 4,675 votes, or 47 percent.

"I'm cautiously optimistic at this point. There's still quite a few ballots out there, but obviously it's a good sign," Sant said. "We're kind of excited at this point but, until you get that final count, you want to make sure you don't celebrate early."

He noted that statistically the trend is for the numbers to continue based on early returns.

"It's great to have a lead now, but things can change," Sant said. "I hope our lead continues."

The numbers reflect the Franklin County ballots received up through Monday. Those received Tuesday won't be counted until today.Election results will be certified Nov. 23.

In August's primary election, Sant led with 1,060 votes or about 55 percent, to Lowe's 45 percent.

Tuesday night, Lowe said it was too early to make any assumptions about how the race will end.

"I think the numbers are better than they were in the primary, and we have a lot of votes to count," he said, noting that there are at least 10,000 ballots yet to be counted. The early results come from 4,000 ballots, he added.

"You don't like to be behind at any stage in the election. ... We're optimistic that we'll come from behind and the votes will swing toward me."

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.

Lowe, 51, is a Democrat who has been in the elected position since 1995. He also is the president-elect of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and is set to take over in December if he retains his Franklin County office.

Sant, 40, is an attorney who is on contract with Benton County to represent indigent defendants. He is the former chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party.

A former Prosser police officer, he worked in the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office from 2004-06 as a deputy prosecutor handing cases in Juvenile Court and District Court. He went into private practice in 2007.

Sant has said his decision to challenge Lowe was nothing personal. "This just seemed to be the right time," he said, explaining that he'd thought about it since he was a cop.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com