WALLA WALLA -- A months-long campaign for the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office appears to have come to a fast finish tonight.
John Turner, the 46-year old newcomer, took the lead in preliminary results with about 54 percent of the vote, according to the county Auditors' Office. His opponent, Bill White, had about 46 percent of the total counted as of this evening.
County Auditor Karen Martin said 13,053 ballots had been counted as of today. Another 4,432 had been received but not counted and 12,698 ballots were still out. The next count was scheduled for Friday.
Surrounded by supporters in the crowded county elections office, Turner said he was "humbled and honored" by the results. He also said he wanted to give "special thanks to my family" for their support during the election.
White, however, did not concede defeat.
"It ain't over till it's over," he said. "We're still optimistic...We would like to to be the other way, but it's still too close to call."
This was Turner's first run for the sheriff's office. His run for office was marked by allegations late in the campaign related to his tenure as manager of Ash Hollow Winery, a local company. Critics charged he had improperly charged personal expenses on the company credit card and spent lavishly when on company business.
White, 56, is currently a captain with the sheriff's office. He has been with the department for 31 years.
In interviews with the Union-Bulletin, Turner denied those charges and said all his dealings with Ash Hollow were done with the support and permission of the winery's board members.
The race for the position opened up in February when Sheriff Mike Humphreys announced his retirement after 13 years in office.
Turner, White and Jim Romine, another veteran sheriff's officer and captain and commander of the county jail, ran against each other in the August primary election. Turner finished first with about 55 percent of the vote and White finished second with about 32 percent. Romine was eliminated after finishing with about 13 percent of the total.