Two-person primary elections in August are kind of like a National Football League preseason game -- they don't get much attention or have much of a reward.
When there only are two candidates, the primary effectively is a glorified public opinion poll that offers insight into the November matchup.
But those who perform well now typically are rewarded later.
Of the 21 two-person partisan county and state legislative elections in Benton and Franklin counties since Washington went to the top-two primary system, the candidate who got the most votes in the August primary went on to win the November general election 20 times.
That is the challenge facing Franklin County Sheriff Richard Lathim and four others.
Pasco Police Capt. Jim Raymond edged out Lathim with 4,931 primary votes, or 51.7 percent, to the seven-term incumbent's 4,599 votes, 48.3 percent, in the Aug. 5 primary.
Raymond, who has been a Pasco police officer for 31 years, is "cautiously optimistic" about the Nov. 4 general election.
"It's not making me slow down; I realize it's just a primary," he said. "I'm still reaching out and contacting people."
Lathim, who is facing his first challenger in 12 years, points out that Raymond spent more on the primary election.
"It's kind of hard to judge, it's an earlier than normal primary," Lathim said. "Obviously, we didn't do as well as we'd like to have."
The sheriff's race has easily been the most expensive in Franklin County this year, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission. Raymond has raised $22,737 and spent $13,710 as of Aug. 12, while Lathim brought in $19,759 and has spent $5,622 so far.
Incumbent Clerk Mike Killian bested opponent Byron Pugh by a three-to-one margin, despite being outspent more than five-to-one. Killian had 6,550 votes, 75.2 percent, to Pugh's 2,161 votes, 24.8 percent.
Pugh raised $9,701, with most of that coming from loans and in-kind contributions from himself, and spent $9,036, according to the Public Disclosure Commission. Killian raised $4,042 and spent $1,616.
Killian was pleased with the vote of confidence from residents. The race has given him a chance to reach out and meet new people and rekindle old friendships, he said.
"I am honored and humbled by the show of support I have from the community," Killian said. "It tells me that I am running the office in a positive way and (there are) no issues with the office."
Pugh was "not a bit" concerned about the primary results, he told the Herald.
"I was somewhat surprised that my opponent didn't poll better considering that he's a 14-year incumbent," Pugh said.
Pugh expects to close the gap by telling voters of his endorsement by the Franklin County Republican Central Committee, which donated $3,000 to his campaign.
"It's now time to really work to get our name out there," he said.
Franklin County saw races tighten in the general election in 2010, the last time it had two-person partisan primary races. Matt Beaton defeated Zona Lenhart in the auditor's race, Shawn Sant defeated Steve Lowe for prosecutor and Josie Koelzer beat Tiffany Coffland in the treasurer's race by slimmer margins in the general election than they did in the primary.
But there is a major difference between 2010 and now. Lenhart, Lowe and Coffland all were incumbents and Democrats. All four of the contestants in the 2014 sheriff and clerk races are Republicans.
Benton County had no county-wide two-person primary races, but there were some legislative contests there.
Incumbent state Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, outdid fellow Republican Mary Ruth Edwards of Prosser in the preliminary match for the seat that represents part of four Eastern Washington counties. Walsh had 13,257 votes, 59.75 percent, to Edwards' 8,929 votes, 40.25 percent.
The race is a rematch of a 2012 contest that focused on Walsh's vote in favor of a bill that paved the way for same-sex marriage in Washington, making her one of only two Republicans to do so.
Walsh took 63 percent of the vote in the 2012 primary, compared to 37 percent for Edwards that year. The general election race was slightly tighter, but Walsh still prevailed by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin.
Walsh has raised $41,431 and spent $15,964 in the District 16 race. Edwards raised $11,931 and spent $9,051.
Two incumbents easily outdid their primary opponents this year in District 8, which takes up much of Benton County.
State Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, seeking her first full four-year term after taking over for Jerome Delvin in 2013, got 20,876 votes, 74.1 percent, compared to Democrat Doug McKinley's 7,302 votes, 25.9 percent.
"I was very excited about the results, however I'm not going to stop," Brown said. "I'm not going to take anything for granted. I'm going to continue to work hard."
Brown has raised $128,397, and spent $10,055 on the election, according to the Public Disclosure Commission. McKinley has not raised or spent any money.
And Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, got 21,351 votes, 76.4 percent, topping Democrat Eric Kalia, who had 6,588 votes, 23.6 percent.
Haler has raised $51,956 and spent $16,167, while Kalia has not spent or raised money, the Public Disclosure Commission said.
Brad Peck's win over Democratic Franklin County Commissioner Neva Corkrum in 2008, the year the state went to the top two system, marks the only time a candidate in a two-person county or legislative race in Benton or Franklin counties recovered from losing in the primary.
Corkrum, who had been in office for 20 years, got 58 percent of the vote in the primary to 42 percent for Peck. Only residents of Corkrum's district could vote in that one.
When Peck won in the general election 57 percent to 43 percent, the entire county was voting.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom