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Challenger takes lead in race

One vote separates mayoral hopefuls

— Mayoral candidate Libby Harrison is edging Mayor Gail Howe by one vote in the general election, according to the most recent results released Friday.

After reviewing and counting ballots that had been flagged for questionable signatures, Harrison’s tally was bumped to 72 votes to Howe’s 71.

“It’s not certified yet,” Howe said. “It won’t be certified until (next) Tuesday. There could be some straggler ballots still coming in.”

Harrison said she didn’t have any comment Monday morning, but previously said that if elected she hopes to talk with residents about the direction they’d like to see the town go.

In another close race, Elmer City mayoral candidate Gail Morin is leading incumbent Mary Jo Carey by two votes, 44-42.

Although Morin was just one vote ahead on Nov. 8, Carey conceded the race. After 10 years serving in local government, she said she’s ready to move on and wished Morin luck.

Neither race qualifies for an automatic recount at this point, Okanogan County Certified Election Administrator Mila Jury said.

The minimum threshold for a recount is less than half of 1 percent difference between the candidates, she said.

Auditor Laurie Thomas said some signatures don’t match up because, for example, the voter’s signature has changed as he or she has gotten older. She said one woman signed a different name, noting that she may have gotten married.

The county has to notify voters three times if their signatures don’t match, Thomas said.

The Okanogan County Canvass Board met Friday morning to review the uncounted ballots. The board will meet again next Tuesday, when election results will be certified.

If either race were to end in a tie, the Canvass Board would set a date and time to do a hand recount, Jury said. The last step following a recount, if there’s still a tie, is to determine the winner by lot.

“We usually flip a coin,” Jury said.

A third close mayoral race in Brewster has incumbent Lee Webster ahead of his challenger, David Smith Jr., by 10 votes. As of Friday, the count remained at 104-94.

Howe said with new mayors being elected in Okanogan County, it could affect the new public transportation system, which was approved by the voters.

“It concerns me regarding the transportation board,” she said. “Practically every mayor who is (a representative) on that board will be brand new… and the next steps are not going to be easy.”

Voters are approving a four-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase to pay for the new system, which will be implemented and overseen by the Okanogan County Transit Authority.

The board of directors includes outgoing mayors Michael Blake, of Okanogan, and Dave Acheson, of Winthrop; and former Twisp Councilman Clay Hill.

Howe also serves on the board.

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