Two Pierce County legislative races too close to call, could require recounts

A second day of ballot-counting left two South Sound legislative races still too close to call Wednesday, with both contests looking as if they may require recounts.

In one close race, it’s unclear whether Christine Kilduff, D-University Place, or Paul Wagemann, R-Lakewood, will fill the open state House seat vacated by Lakewood Democrat Tami Green. As of Wednesday, only 41 votes separated the two candidates in Pierce County’s 28th Legislative District, a margin so slim that it could prompt a hand recount.

On Wednesday, Kilduff called the election results “a work in progress.”

Nearby in the 26th Legislative District, Republican Michelle Caldier of Port Orchard held a narrow lead over incumbent Democratic Rep. Larry Seaquist of Gig Harbor. Caldier led Seaquist by less than one percentage point Wednesday.

“I think people are ready for a change,” Caldier said. “The way things are trending, hopefully I’ll have an even bigger lead tomorrow.”

Yet with tens of thousands of votes remaining to be counted in Pierce County, the race could easily swing back Seaquist’s way, with a recount a clear possibility.

“I am still expecting to win,” Seaquist said Wednesday. “I think we still have a couple of days of significant counting to go.”

Democrats currently hold a 55-43 majority in the state House. But their majority could dwindle to 50-48 next year if all the races now in limbo turn Republican.

Locked in another tight race Wednesday was state Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton, who was only 110 votes ahead of Republican challenger Dan Griffey in the 35th Legislative District.

Incumbent Democratic Rep. Monica Stonier of Vancouver was also fighting to retain her seat against Republican Lynda Wilson.

The Democrats already appear to have lost one House seat, with Puyallup Republican Melanie Stambaugh strengthening her lead Wednesday over incumbent Democratic Rep. Dawn Morrell in Pierce County’s 25th Legislative District.

The Pierce County Auditor’s office counted about 32,000 additional ballots Wednesday, but reported that roughly 60,000 remained uncounted at the end of the day.

Mike Rooney, Pierce County elections manager, said a late influx of ballots was making it hard to process the results quickly. The county received more ballots Tuesday than it did on Election Day in the 2012 presidential election. It received an additional 14,000 to 15,000 ballots in the mail Wednesday, he said.

Wednesday’s results didn’t change Republicans’ edge in several closely watched state Senate races. Republicans still appear as if they will retain control of the Legislature’s upper chamber, which has been led by a GOP-leaning majority for the past two years.

A Pierce County Council contest, however, waded into recount territory in the latest round of results.

Challenger Derek Young's slim lead over incumbent Pierce County Councilman Stan Flemming had nearly vanished Wednesday night. Young, a Democrat, was only 16 votes ahead of Flemming, a Republican.

Staff writer Steve Maynard contributed to this report.