PORT ORCHARD — This week, election workers in Kitsap and Pierce counties will begin a manual recount of the ballots cast in November for the 26th Legislative District’s state Senate seat.
Residents of the district are expected to know for certain who their new state senator is by the morning of Friday, Dec. 7 when canvassing boards from Kitsap and Pierce counties will certify results from a mandatory recount of general election ballots to be undertaken next week.
A final result combining recounted ballots from the two counties will be known when the Pierce County canvassing board meets to certify its results at 10:30 a.m. At 9 a.m. that day, Kitsap County’s board will gather to certify results from its own recount completed a day earlier. Pierce County will manually recount ballots over three-plus days — Dec. 4 and up to the canvassing board meeting date in the morning of Dec. 7, if additional time is needed, said Mike Rooney, Pierce County’s elections manager.
In combined county results, Randall leads McClendon by 104 votes with a 50.07 percent to 49.93 percent margin — a 0.14-percentage-point difference. The final, but preliminary, results showed Randall leading McClendon, 35,087 to 34,983 votes.
Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Emily Randall, who leads opponent Marty McClendon by 104 votes after ballots were machine-counted in the days following Election Day on Nov. 6, is doing what she can to prepare to assume the open seat in Olympia.
But first, a state-mandated recount must be conducted to confirm the electoral result. And since Randall’s thin margin is under 150 votes, the recount must be undertaken manually. To do that, hired workers are being brought in to count the votes by hand — at least twice, according to Kitsap County Auditor Delores Gilmore.
Officials in the Secretary of State’s office and county election offices say recounts rarely reverse initial results. But Randall remains cautious, optimistically so, that her lead will prevail.
“The results bore out the way I thought they would,” Randall said earlier this week. “Historically, Democrats have done better in urban areas, and we certainly did. And I’ve been doing better in Kitsap County all along than in Pierce County. So that’s not unexpected.”
The senator-in-waiting said she spoke with U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, a former 26th District legislator, who said he lost badly in Pierce County in one of his early races.
Randall did see some gains made in precincts where her team “worked really hard, places where we went back to over and over to talk with voters.”
But a key measure to her election success, she believes, was her team’s hard work in knocking on the doors of district residents. The Democrat said she believes there’s a close correlation of votes gained to the doors that were knocked on. She estimated her team knocked on more than 33,000 doors in carrying her campaign’s message to 26th District voters.
“That old-school method still works,” the Port Orchard native said. “We know that it wins elections. It’s hard in communities like ours that are so spread out, but it’s no less important. Honestly, it was my favorite part of campaigning — getting the chance to talk to our neighbors, especially down those long driveways.”
The Bremerton resident said she believes elected officials “have no business representing neighbors that they don’t spend time talking with. Folks have a lot on their minds.”
In fact, Randall said she is committed to doorbelling every summer — even when she’s not up for re-election.
“I’ll have a chance to go to even more remote corners of our communities to make sure that I’m hearing from everyone.”
To begin preparing to take office in January (should she be declared the election winner), Randall said she and her team have been talking with other Democratic senators-elect about their first steps in Olympia.
But before taking office, though, the recount must take place.
“My team has been spending a fair amount of time working with the state Democrats to make sure that every ballot that has a signature issue will be counted. I’m thankful for the hard work they’ve put in.
“I’m so grateful for that and know that we have more work ahead of us.”
But in the off-chance that the recount will upend her lead, Randall said that she feels good about the work her campaign team put in throughout the district — regardless.
“Regardless of what happens, I’m committed to working for our community far into the future. Whether that’s as a senator in Olympia or as a voter and neighbor. I’m going to keep fighting for us.”
Republican candidate Marty McClendon didn’t return a call from the Independent seeking his comments about the upcoming recount.