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City council primary race too close to call

There are neck-and-neck political contests, then there are neck-and-neck-and-neck races like the Sunnyside City Council Dist. 3 primary. As of yesterday's latest tally, incumbent Don Vlieger pulled into a tie with challenger Spencer Martin at 56 votes each, with challenger Victory Ochoa just one vote back. Initial vote counts Tuesday night had just six votes separating the three, led by Martin with Vlieger three votes back. The only thing that remained unchanged from Tuesday's count in Dist. 3 is the one write-in candidate. The top two vote-getters in primary races advance to the Nov. 2 general election contest. As a result, the one write-in might cost a candidate a place on the November ballot. The name of the potential spoiler entered on the ballot was Kenneth Slinnett. That's according to Yolanda Arellano, a program analyst with Yakima County's election division. She says there are no additional votes to count today in the tight primary race. "The numbers stand as is," she says. Votes postmarked by Aug. 6 may still trickle into the elections office, Arellano says, as some overseas military votes can arrive days later. The latest a ballot can arrive is Monday, Aug. 19, the day before Yakima County certifies the primary results. With no more votes to count at present time in the Vlieger-Martin-Ochoa deadlock, Arellano says it's likely there will be a mandatory, manual recount after Aug. 20. If the recount reflects a tie; whether it's for the top two, the bottom two or all three candidates; then the top two would be selected in order by random lot, Arellano says. She says options could range from a coin flip to the numbered draw used to decide the order of candidates printed on the primary ballot. Sunnyside's three-way split is a rarity, but in contests with few votes like a district primary where only voters in that immediate area get to decide the top two, it's a potential outcome election officials monitor. "When the turnout is so low, we're usually watching the numbers because it's easier to get to that mandatory recount level," Arellano says. Sunnyside's other city council primary race, Dist. 1, has fewer votes cast, but with less drama. Wednesday night's count expanded incumbent Theresa Hancock's slim lead by another two votes over Robert Perales. Latest totals show Hancock victorious by a count of 58-to-49, or 47.93 to 40.50 percent. A second challenger, Emanuel Santana Walle, saw his vote total of 14 unchanged from Tuesday. Yakima County's election division will certify the primary results on Tuesday, Aug. 20. Sunnyside's primary races were decided by only voters residing in districts 1 and 3, respectively. All Sunnyside voters will be able to cast ballots in all city council races this November.

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