Olson pulls ahead of Smith by four votes in County Commission race

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Republican Keith Olson is now ahead of Democrat Al Smith — but only by four votes — in the county commission contest to see who will face off against Cosmopolis Mayor Vickie Raines in the General Election.

It’s possible the whole thing may end up in a hand recount and all eyes will be on the county’s canvassing board, which will look through a number of challenged ballots before the election is certified later this month.

The updated ballot count was released Thursday for the Grays Harbor County Commissioner District 3 race and other elections.

Olson had trailed Smith by 58 votes after the initial count on Election Day, and now leads him by a razor-thin four votes.

Cosmopolis Mayor Vickie Raines, who is running with no party preference, still has a commanding lead and will head into the General Election in November with 33.2 percent. The top two vote-getters proceed to that contest.

The fourth commissioner candidate, Independent Jim Heikel, conceded Wednesday.

The results now have Raines with 1,839 votes out of a total of 5,538 counted in the race. Olson leads for the remaining spot on the November ballot with 26 percent (1,442 votes) and Smith dropped to 25.9 percent.

“Every vote really does count,” said Elections Supervisor Katy Moore. The narrow margin may end up mandating a recount for the second-place candidates.

“For a machine recount the race must be less than 2,000 votes difference and be less than half of one percent. For a manual recount, the race must be less than 150 votes and less than a quarter of one percent,” she wrote in an email.

For example, the current difference between Smith and Olson would mandate a manual recount.

Auditor Vern Spatz says in this case the candidates need to be separated by about eight votes to trigger the hand re-count. Four years ago, the county had to do a recount to figure out who won between commission incumbent Al Carter and then-challenger Herb Welch in this very commission district. Welch won the re-count.

The county still has several dozen ballots with signature issues — either the signatures on file didn’t match, spouses accidentally signed each other’s ballots, that sort of thing. Voters have until Aug. 19 to get the signatures straightened out.

There will also be an assortment of issues that need to be worked out with the county’s canvassing board, in charge of ballot disputes. The board is made up of a member of the county commissioners, the Auditor’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Office. County Commission Chairman Frank Gordon has already recused himself from the board, Spatz said. Gordon was publicly backing Smith and was against Raines.

Moore is working on some 254 signature challenges countywide. Of those ballots, 110 are within District 3, Moore added.

If enough ballots arrive to warrant it, another count would be released by Wednesday of next week, she said.

Assessor

In the Assessor’s race, incumbent Assessor Rick Hole increased his lead over Pacific County Chief Appraiser Loni Hooper for the second spot on the November ballot, now leading her by 381 votes. Hole, who prefers Neither Party, registered 30.4 percent (4,079 votes) after the latest count. Hooper, an Independent, tallied 27.5 percent.

Democrat Dan Lindgren, an appraiser in the Assessor’s Office and Hole’s opponent in the last election, still holds the top spot with 42.08 percent (4.649 votes) of a total of 13,426 ballots counted.

PUD

John Straka increased his slim lead over former PUD commissioner Frank Moses in the race to determine who will run against incumbent PUD Commissioner Russ Skolrood in November.

Straka held a 75-vote lead over Moses on election night. He now leads Moses by 109 votes with 26.9 percent (1,272 votes) to Moses’ 24.6 percent. Skolrood leads the three-way primary with 48.5 percent of the vote.

Hospital

The ballot measure creating Grays Harbor County Public Hospital District 2 to oversee Grays Harbor Community Hospital continues to pass by a wide margin, though the percentage dipped slightly to 61.41 percent from 61.42.

Steven Friederich contributed to this story.