There were about 860 election ballots still to count in District 2 as of Wednesday with a close race for the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors hanging in the balance.
Incumbent District 2 Supervisor Randy Hanvelt trailed challenger Ryan Campbell by 42 votes after the 2,458 votes cast in the race by mail prior to Tuesday’s election and 721 cast at the polls were tabulated at the end of the night.
The roughly 860 ballots from the district still left to count didn’t include any in the 800 to 900 vote-by-mail ballots the Elections Office received on Wednesday.
A California state law that went into effect in 2016 allows absentee ballots received in the mail within three days after an election to be counted as long as they have a valid postmark on or prior to election day.
That still makes the race between Campbell and Hanvelt too close to call as of Wednesday, though the current leader said he’s staying positive because his vote total increased by a greater percentage than Hanvelt’s from the unofficial election night results to the final tally in the June 5 primary.
“If that holds true this time, that will more than do it,” Campbell said.
Hanvelt finished in first place in the primary with 318 more votes than Campbell, though he didn’t pass the 50-percent threshold needed to win the seat outright. They advanced to the runoff on Tuesday because they were the top two vote getters in the three-person race.
Campbell said he believes listening to constituents’ concerns over the past five months since the primary helped him close the gap with the two-term incumbent and come out of election night in the lead.
“I think there are a lot of people who feel like they haven’t had a voice in county government for long time,” he said. “If someone comes along to be that voice, I think you find that people really respond to that.”
Factoring in the 860 uncounted ballots would mean there were at least 4,000 votes cast in the District 2 race on Tuesday. That’s over 1,000 more than in the primary and more than any of Hanvelt’s previous elections in 2014 and 2010, during both of which he crushed his primary opponents by nearly 30 percentage points each.
Campbell said he believes energizing new District 2 voters through his campaign played a role in the high turnout.
“It’s amazing how many people voted,” he said. “I think our campaign brought in a lot of people who didn’t vote for either candidate in the 2014 elections, which is what we had to do to win.”
Hanvelt could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon, though in a text message sent Tuesday night he congratulated Campbell on a “well-run campaign” and stated the final results won’t likely be known for days.
Debi Bautista, county clerk and auditor-controller, said the race between Hanvelt and Campbell is the closest she can recall for a county supervisor position since she started overseeing elections in the county in 2006.
Bautista said workers as of Wednesday afternoon had almost completed processing the more than 5,000 total vote-by-mail ballots received on and since Tuesday. She planned to have another round of results by no later than Friday.
There are also about 950 provisional ballots and 100 conditional-voter ballots still left to process, but Bautista said that will take several days because they require more manual work to verify.
Overall, there have been 18,137 vote-by-mail ballots processed so far. All 3,974 ballots cast at polling places Tuesday were included in the results by the end of that night.
That means the turnout of the 31,999 registered voters in the county is already at roughly 69 percent, with more still possibly to come into the Elections Office. That’s higher than the 59 percent of registered voters in the county who participated in the 2014 midterm elections, but less than the 71 percent who did in 2010.
Another race that was too close to call on Wednesday was for three open seats on the Jamestown School District Board of Trustees.
Incumbent Trustee Cathy Stone-Carlson ended Tuesday night in the lead with 643 votes, following by incumbent Trustee Gary Wilson with 592 votes and incumbent Trustee Misty Marquette Wilson with 581 votes.
However, challenger Kristin Ann Barajas was only 27 votes shy of overtaking Misty Marquette Wilson.
The race to become the next county supervisor for District 3 is not as close as the other two, however, as Anaiah Kirk finished Tuesday night with a strong 209-vote lead over opponent Laurie Sylwester.
Kirk claimed victory in an interview on Wednesday and said he felt confident despite the number of ballots left uncounted, because he maintained the same distance from Sylwester as the results rolled in Tuesday night.
“Once the second results came in and it was consistent we were going to stay in the lead, at that point I knew it was going to be in my favor,” Kirk said.
Sylwester could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Kirk said he wanted to focus on forest health during his first term in office and make sure that the county’s Master Stewardship Agreement with the U.S. Forest Service continues to progress. He also wants to address the Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority, which has come under fire lately after a lawsuit and investigation by the Tuolumne County Civil Grand Jury.
“Another thing I want to do is bring attention to the TCEDA and want to see results-driven work,” he said. “I want to see some plans put together to get some results so we can see good economic growth and people can work.”
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4530.