Benton Co. elected officials fare well

KENNEWICK -- Benton County Commissioner Max E. Benitz Jr. was the only elected county official apparently losing a bid for re-election in early voting results Tuesday.

Sheriff's training officer Shon Small appeared to have won the race with 20,279 votes, or 59 percent, to Benitz's 13,956, or 41 percent.

Small, a Prosser resident, said he thought he won because voters were ready for change.

"I think they feel they are ready for a new generation of leadership," Small said Tuesday. "Max was a good commissioner for 16 years."

It was Benitz's fourth bid for re-election. Also from Prosser, Benitz said on the campaign trail that he wanted to continue on the commission to represent the interests of farmers.

Benitz did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday night.

The two Republicans agreed on many issues during the campaign, including their opposition to moving the county seat to Kennewick.

Benton County totals from Tuesday include ballots received through Monday. The county received more than 10,000 ballots Tuesday, with election officials estimating about 20,000 ballots still left to count.

Benton County coroner

A veteran Richland detective is ready to start making plans for his new job as Benton County's coroner, but his opponent isn't ready to call the race over yet.

John Hansens was leading with 16,908 votes, or 52 percent of ballots counted Tuesday, while Alberta "Bert" Redwing had 15,735, or 48 percent.

"I'm very happy to be leading. We believe the vote total's going to hold," Hansens said after getting the results at the auditor's office before heading home for a quiet family party. "We're just happy with the results and we'll be following the rest of the returns."

Redwing, who has spent eight years in the coroner field and six years as deputy coroner in Benton County, said she was pleased to hear how close the vote was after first tally.

"Wow. I guess I'm going to hold out and wait for the rest," said Redwing, who was with supporters at the VFW Hall in Richland. "I'm very happy to hear that. I'm going to remain extremely optimistic."

Results, which will be updated daily, are unofficial until the election is certifiedNov. 23.

Benton County assessor

Longtime Benton County Assessor Barbara Wagner will hold on to her seat for a sixth term.

She received 23,699 votes, or 69 percent, in unofficial election results, to hold off challenger Bill Spencer, who collected 10,586 votes, or 31 percent. Both are Republicans.

"I feel great. It's just so overwhelming, the support that not only my office has given me and the voters," she said. "I ran a campaign with true integrity, and I think the voters spoke, and they appreciate a clean campaign."

Wagner, 57, said this was a harder race than she has ever had. With 20 years of experience, she said she isn't ready to retire and does "plan on serving all four years."

Wagner is immediate past president of the Washington Association of County Officials and past president of the Washington State Association of County Assessors.

Spencer is an appraiser with Spencer Appraisal Service in Richland. He's said he ran because he believed the assessor's office has slipped behind in adopting the latest technology and should use it to keep pace with current values and new construction.

Benton County auditor

A longtime employee of the Benton County Auditor's Office who has been leading the department since January will continue at the helm for another four years.

Brenda Chilton was leading her challenger, veteran politician Claude Oliver with 20,584 votes, or 59 percent, according to Tuesday's preliminary results.

"I was very pleased. It's been a long year. I started campaigning about a year ago," Chilton said, adding that the vote is an indication citizens enjoy the consistency in the office.

Oliver, a former county commissioner, former county treasurer and former member of the state House of Representatives, received 14,319 votes, or 41 percent.

Both Chilton and Oliver are Republicans.

"That count would be kind of hard to overcome," Oliver said. "The Tri-Cities is a great place ... and things like this really make you appreciate what you've got. ... We've made a statement. We'll be looking forward to the next thing."

Chilton was appointed auditor after longtime Auditor Bobbie Gagner retired in 2009.

Chilton said running for her job while running the office was a little difficult because after 11 years of running elections she had to step back bit and let her staff handle it.

"I'll be glad to get this under the bridge and get back to work doing the job full time," she said.

Election results will be certified Nov. 23.