Certified vote totals released this week settle tight St. Helens race absent recount

The Columbia County Elections Office released certified election results this week, settling a tight race in St. Helens for a City Council position.

Steve Topaz, of St. Helens, has taken the majority of the Nov. 6 election votes to secure a seat on the City Council, officially ousting seven-year incumbent Susan Conn.

The race for Position 3 on the council was tight. On election night, as votes were counted and official preliminary results updated, Topaz took a slim lead over Conn. But it was neck-and-neck for most of the evening.

Topaz in mid-November said he was holding back on celebrating his victory until the certified votes were in.

"Right now, I've got my fingers crossed," Topaz said at the time. "Until the votes are certified in two to three weeks, we're just sitting here."

When asked if she was surprised by the closeness of the race immediately following election night, Conn said she didn't know how tight the votes would be.

"I didn't know. I didn't have a feeling about it," she noted.

According to the final certified tally, Topaz took 2,378 votes, or 49.93 percent of the vote, compared to Conn, who secured 2,339 votes, or 49.11 percent. Forty-seven voters wrote in candidates. A total 867 voters did not indicate a choice on the ballot, which is known as an under vote, Columbia County Elections Supervisor Don Clack explained.

While the final result was close, the margin does not fall within the threshold for an automatic recount. Clack explained that votes would need to be separated by a 9.4 vote margin to trigger an automatic recount in this particular race. Any candidate can file and pay a fee to request a recount, however.

Conn said she would not request a recount.

After taking office, Topaz said one of his first orders of business would be to identify someone to fill an anticipated vacancy on the City Council. Earlier this year, Councilor Keith Locke announced he would be moving out of the area in January, which would leave his seat open.

"If Keith Locke retired like he said he would, we'd need to find someone to appoint to that," Topaz said.

Topaz will be sworn in at the start of the New Year. He did not respond to requests for comment this week by the Spotlight's press deadline.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect the number of years Susan Conn has served on the the St. Helens City Council.

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