The final tally for the race for the first district county supervisor seat has resulted in the top two finishers flipping positions, with Susan Gorin edging out rival Santa Rosa city council member John Sawyer by 186 votes.
Both still are headed to a run-off in the November election. But the result does change who has bragging rights to being to the top-vote getter in the six-way primary race.
On election night, Sawyer had 130 more votes than Gorin. When the counting of last-minute absentee ballots was completed on Wednesday, orin had pulled ahead.
"I was surprised that it flip-flopped because things don't, usually," said Janice Atkinson, Sonoma County's clerk, recorder, assessor and registrar of voters.
Gorin received 6,625 votes, or 23.8 percent, to Sawyer's 6,439, or 23.2 percent.
The final tally involved hand-counting of the mail-in ballots that people had dropped off at the polls, Atkinson said.
"These are the ones who held onto their ballots until the very last minute," Atkinson said.
Gorin said she was "very gratified" by the result but wasn't taking anything for granted and would be "out there talking to as many voters as possible."
Sawyer took the reversal in stride. "It was nice to be ahead on election night, but I always knew there was a possibility for a change in those numbers."
The change likely was the result of negative mailers that hit late in the campaign, which may have affected last-minute voters, Sawyer said.
Three mailers funded by the independent expenditure committee Coalition for a Better Sonoma County arrived in the final two weeks of the campaign and were all negative. One carried an image of Pinocchio and questioned Sawyer's honesty. Another, which hit the Friday before the vote, asked "Who controls John Sawyer" and listed some of his donors, which the mailer characterized as "big moneyed special interests."
Sawyer said his campaign "took the high road" until those negative ads hit, and then he was forced to respond with robo-calls addressing the charges.
"There are few options to candidate that are hit by late-arriving negative campaign ads," Sawyer said. "I think the countering helped, but there's no way of knowing."
Gorin said she doubted Sawyer's explanation that the negative ads were responsible for the change, noting that the robo-calls supporting him went negative against her, as well.
"I think there were negative messages attacking each of us," Gorin said.