A full week after Election Day, the race for Spokane City Council president has a new leader.
Breean Beggs is ahead of Cindy Wendle by a margin of seven votes after the latest tally was posted by the Spokane County Elections Office on Tuesday. Countywide, there are 8,100 ballots left to count. Only about 5,000 of those are in the city of Spokane.
The race appears destined for an automatic recount, either by machine or by hand, in which case it would likely not be certified until December, according to Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton.
Beggs has gained tremendous ground on Wendle in the days following election night, when initial results showed him trailing Wendle by more than 700 votes. That gap grew to 833 votes after updated results were posted last Wednesday, but has been slashed by more than half in each subsequent count.
As of the tally on Friday, Beggs trailed Wendle by 145 votes.
The candidates are now separated by just seven votes, which would fall within the parameters for an automatic hand recount if it remains that close in the coming days.
A hand recount could not begin until after the election is certified on Nov. 26. Election workers would then begin the process of separating ballots specifically for the council president’s race. Count teams methodically make their way through the ballots and the election would likely not be certified until Dec. 10, Dalton estimated.
A hand recount occurs in Washington if the gap separating two candidates is less than 1,000 votes and less than one-quarter of a percentage point.
Tuesday’s update made Beggs “very happy, as you might imagine,” he said.
“Definitely anything can happen, but the trend has been very positive for the last three counts,” he added.
Wendle could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Asked to explain his success with last-minute voters, Beggs pointed to two moments in the final two weeks of the campaign. On Oct. 25, The Spokesman-Review reported that a Wendle campaign ad used footage of a homeless camp in Baltimore, not Spokane, to illustrate the city’s struggles with homelessness.
Then a campaign mailer sent from Wendle’s campaign used a distorted photo of Beggs.
Beggs said Wendle told voters throughout the campaign that while she lacked political experience, “she was going to bring a new sense of civility, and I think those two ads undercut that contention.”
Beggs currently represents the South Hill on the City Council, while Cindy Wendle is a political newcomer who offered voters a new, collaborative style of leadership on the council that would be more responsive to city residents.
Meanwhile, a race for District 3 remained too close to call after Tuesday’s count. Incumbent Councilwoman Karen Stratton is narrowly holding onto a lead over challenger Andy Rathbun. Stratton has 11,057 votes to Rathbun’s 10,821.
On Friday, Stratton led by 216 votes. That gap now stands at 236.
There are about 1,900 votes left to count in that race.
As ballots are counted, at stake is the weight of the council’s liberal majority.
Should Beggs and Stratton win, the council will maintain its “veto-proof” liberal majority. But if Wendle and Rathbun win, they will join newcomer Michael Cathcart as a moderate to conservative counterweight to the progressives on the council.
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