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Larsen wins, Dean clings to recount hope in Island County race

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen narrowly beat his opponent in a come-from-behind ballot count, but the race for Island County is still undecided.

The gap between incumbent Island County Commissioner John Dean, a Democrat, and his challenger, Republican Kelly Emerson, has been narrowing with each new vote count, but it looks like a long shot for Dean to pull through. Still, he’s hoping to get enough of the remaining votes to require a recount.

After the count Monday night, Emerson was ahead by 314 votes out of 33,612 ballots cast for the two candidates. That’s a 0.94 percent difference between the two candidates.

Island County Auditor Sheilah Crider said about 1,000 ballots are left to be counted; about 700 of those will likely be tallied in the count Wednesday. She said these final ballots are a combination of those that went through the signature verification process and “a handful of ballots” that finally came in the mail from out of state.

Crider said it doesn’t seem likely that the commissioner’s race will be close enough to trigger a mandatory recount. State law mandates a recount when the margin is fewer than 2,000 votes and less than 0.5 percent of the votes cast for both candidates.

Whoever wins, Dean said the tight race means the next commissioner will not come in with a mandate and should make an effort to represent both sides of the political divide.

“It’s something I believe I’m good at and I hope Kelly will learn over the next four years,” he said. “We don’t need a government with constant in-fighting.”

In the Second Congressional District, Larsen, a Democrat, declared victory after a vote count Monday, but Republican challenger John Koster hasn’t conceded. Larsen is ahead by more than 5,000 votes. Larsen has 50.97 percent, while Koster has 49.03 percent.

On the election night count, Koster was ahead by nearly 1,400 votes.

“The political landscape has changed and the new majority now has an equal responsibility to govern. One lesson of the Democratic party’s loss is that Americans want bipartisanship. The American people want the parties to work together,” Larsen said in his victory speech.

Larsen’s district run from the Canadian border to the north end of King County. Among Island County voters, Koster earned 29 more votes than Larsen.

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