The primary election race between University Place Mayor Ken Grassi and Tacoma real estate agent Sharon Benson to advance for the District 4 seat on the Pierce County Council is headed for a recount.
Grassi, a Republican, held a 41-vote lead over Benson, a Democrat, according to final returns certified Tuesday.
The difference in votes cast just for the second- and third-place finishers was 0.45 percent, less than the one-half of 1 percent threshold that triggers a mandatory machine recount.
That recount will begin Thursday and finish with certification next Tuesday, said county Auditor Julie Anderson.
Grassi, who trailed Benson in early election returns, finished with 4,536 votes. Benson had 4,495.
State Rep. Connie Ladenburg, D-Tacoma, finished first with 7,787 votes in the contest to represent Fircrest, University Place and much of Tacoma. The top two vote-getters advance to the Nov. 6 general election.
Anderson said it was too soon to estimate how much the recount will cost the county. Elections manager Mike Rooney said about 50 extra staffers will be hired for the recount.
About 20,000 ballots must be retrieved from election archives, sorted, counted and re-scanned, Anderson said.
“It’s unlikely for the race to change,” Anderson said. “We may see a tightening or different final numbers. I’m definitely not expecting to see a change of 41 votes.”
But, she added, “That’s why we do a recount.”
Grassi and Benson say they’re letting the process play out.
“I’m very much at peace over it,” said Grassi, a flower shop owner. “Right now, this is how it turned out and the recount will make the final determination.”
Benson said she’ll “let the auditor do her job.”
“It goes to show you that every vote counts,” Benson said. “This has been a great civics lesson about how elections work.”
Benson said she’s not nervous about the outcome. During the campaign, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a successful double mastectomy, Benson said.
“That made me nervous,” she said. “This doesn’t make me nervous.”
Anderson said this is her first mechanical recount during her nearly three years as auditor.
But her office also will be conducting its third hand recount during her tenure. A hand recount is triggered by an even smaller percentage difference between candidates than is required for a mechanical recount.
For this election, the hand recount is for a precinct committee officer race in which the two candidates finished tied.