Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, November 08, 2007

"Close Pullman race surprises candidates; Incumbent strongly challenged by upstart 21 years his junior"

From today's Lewiston Tribune:
Pullman Ward 2 city councilor Al Sorensen said Wednesday he is as stunned as his young challenger at how close the two are in preliminary vote counts from Tuesday's election.

"I'm pretty surprised myself," said Sorensen, who learned he had 153 votes to Nathan Weller's 144 via a text message to his cell phone during Tuesday night's city council meeting. "When it said that, I just about fell out of my chair."

With hundreds of Pullman votes left to count, the election will likely be too close to call until the next batch of ballots are tallied Friday morning. Whitman County elections supervisor Debbie Hooper said 1,737 ballots arrived at the auditor's office Tuesday, along with 287 from the Colfax service center and 482 from the Pullman service center at city hall.

Almost 1,400 ballots arrived Wednesday, Hooper said, and many more could arrive today and Friday. She said several hundred will be from Pullman residents. A clear winner should emerge after that.

If not, a machine recount will be triggered if the difference is less than one-half of 1 percent, and a hand recount if the difference is less than a quarter of 1 percent. The auditor's office counted 5,929 ballots on Tuesday, 32 percent of the county's registered voters. Currently there is a 3 percent difference between the candidates, with Sorensen getting 51 percent of the vote to Weller's 48 percent.

With all those numbers swirling around, Sorensen was left scratching his head, wondering how he - a 46-year-old, long-standing member of Pullman's business community and incumbent member of the city council - could be so close to losing his seat to an upstart 21 years his junior.

"I've got to be honest with you; I think I'm the better candidate for the position," he said. "I would think the people in my ward would realize that."

Sorensen acknowledged he might have taken Weller's challenge too lightly, and maybe should have gone door-to-door like Weller did. He also thought Weller did a better job of appealing to Washington State University students, who make up a good chunk of Ward 2.

"He's done a lot of work," Sorensen said, adding he will research the election once results are finalized after final canvassing on Nov. 27. "They (constituents) must be concerned that I or the city aren't doing things correctly."

Weller credited his friends and family for all the help they lent his campaign. "It's good to run a strong, grassroots campaign," he said. "We literally knocked on 95 percent of the doors (in Ward 2)."

He also said he didn't necessarily try to appeal to students, but to everybody in his ward. Weller added his prediction that many of Sorensen's supporters haven't yet been counted.

"He's going to have many more votes coming in," Weller said, "as maybe I will."

"I'm a little amazed," Sorensen concluded about the thus-far close race. "I didn't think it would be that close after the first day, with 300 votes in. I thought it would be more a more one-third, two-thirds kind of deal."

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