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Vicky Dalton on cusp of re-election as auditor with around 1% of ballots left to count

Nov. 14, 2022 Updated Tue., Nov. 15, 2022 at 11:07 a.m.

Democratic Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton, left, defeated Republican Bob McCaslin in her re-election bid in the 2022 election.
Democratic Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton, left, defeated Republican Bob McCaslin in her re-election bid in the 2022 election.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton is on the verge of victory in a nail-biter of a race.

After Monday’s vote count, the incumbent Democrat has 50.2% of the vote to Republican challenger Bob McCaslin’s 49.8%. Dalton, who has served as county auditor since the late 1990s, holds a 932-vote lead with more than 219,000 ballots cast.

If that margin holds, the race will be close enough to trigger a machine recount. Washington law requires machine recounts when candidates are separated by less than 0.5 percentage points and fewer than 2,000 votes. State law requires hand recounts for races closer than 0.25 percentage points and 150 votes.

Despite her narrow lead, Dalton was in good spirits Monday night. A McCaslin comeback is highly unlikely.

“Mathematically, that’s a hard margin to catch up on now,” Dalton said.

In order to overtake Dalton, McCaslin needs to win more than 66% of the approximately 3,300 ballots remaining.

The state lawmaker did not respond to a request for comment.

It was clear on election night that the auditor’s race would be close.

On Tuesday, Dalton had 52% of the vote to McCaslin’s 48%. But later-arriving ballots favored the conservative candidate. McCaslin has won 53% of the nearly 77,000 ballots counted since Tuesday, steadily chipping away at Dalton’s lead.

Watching McCaslin gain ground has been stressful, Dalton said.

“Every election, when you’re on the ballot, is stressful,” she said. “This has been an uncomfortably close race for me as a candidate. I will be happy when this particular election is certified and done.”

County auditor races aren’t typically high profile. Many voters don’t even know what auditors do – they record documents, administer motor vehicle licenses, manage county financial services and oversee elections.

That last responsibility has brought auditors more attention in recent years, as unfounded claims of election fraud have become widespread.

Dalton has said she’ll work to combat election misinformation and disinformation if re-elected. She’s avoided bashing McCaslin on the campaign trail, instead highlighting her office’s accomplishments and commitment to running secure and accurate elections.

The incumbent has gotten help from outside spenders. Open Democracy PAC, a political action committee based in Washington, D.C., has spent $52,000 on pro-Dalton and anti-McCaslin mailers. The national super PAC initially reported that it was spending $75,000 to help Dalton.

McCaslin, who lists transparency among his top priorities, has frequently ducked interviews and debates during his run for auditor. However, the lawmaker has made some of his views on elections clear.

In 2021, McCaslin attempted to pass legislation that would have required counties to hire private businesses to audit their 2020 election results.

The Republican has supported attempts to audit Spokane County’s 2020 election and co-hosted a meeting headlined by Seth Keshel, who argues President Joe Biden’s victory seems to have been illegitimate based on past voting trends.

In a TV campaign ad, McCaslin shared clips from “2000 Mules,” a Dinesh D’Souza documentary.

That film, which contains numerous faulty premises and unsupported claims, uses cellphone tracking data to argue that Democrats stole the 2020 election from former President Donald Trump.

Trump administration Attorney General Bill Barr, multiple law enforcement agencies and fact checkers have thoroughly discredited the film.

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