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Victoria Fleming widens lead in Santa Rosa council race, top contenders in Healdsburg and Petaluma also see gains

The addition of more than 42,000 ballots helped a few candidates in tight local races widen their leads but races still close with thousands of ballots outstanding.|

Santa Rosa Council member Victoria Fleming doubled her lead over rival Terry Sanders in the hotly contested District 4 race, one of several where top contenders widened their winning margins, if only marginally, in the latest county election update Friday.

With the new tally adding 42,659 ballots, representing the bulk of remaining votes, Friday’s standings likely signal the outcome in final results for many of the close races barring a sharp shift in last returns.

The most pivotal update came in a Cloverdale race, where a ballot measure that would outlaw fireworks is now trailing by a margin of 49% to 51%. It had been up by as much as 10 points in initial returns on Election Day, but has steadily lost ground in subsequent tallies.

Friday’s update represents the biggest batch of votes processed and posted since the Nov. 8 midterm election and brings the countywide count to 182,664 — equating to 60% turnout.

An estimated 17,000 ballots remain uncounted and another update is expected Tuesday, which will include most of the remaining ballots.

“Any of these races do have the potential for shifts with 17,000 ballots in play if we see differences of less than 1%,” said David McCuan, Sonoma State political science professor. “We don’t know where the ballots are outstanding, so there is variance and some unpredictability out there still.”

In the race between Fleming and Sanders, the addition of about 2,300 newly counted votes buoyed Fleming’s lead to 301 votes or 40.1% of the vote to 37.4% for Sanders, with 11,031 ballots counted so far in the four-way nonpartisan race.

Among the two other contenders, businessman Henry Huang topped 20% of the vote and Scheherazade “Shari” Shamsavari, a retired health and education professional had 2.2%.

Fewer than 800 ballots could still be outstanding in the contest based on turnout projections. There are 17,896 registered voters in the northeast Santa Rosa district.

McCuan said though it’s statistically possible for Sanders to still win, it’s unlikely.

Fleming appeared to have benefited from late turnout. She was also on the sidelines of a late-breaking spat between Huang’s camp and Sanders’ campaign, McCuan noted.

Huang, in public comments just days before Election Day, accused Sanders and his representatives and allies of repeatedly pressuring him over months to drop out of the race, fearing he would split the insurgent vote and hand the race to Fleming.

“The trends we have seen with updated counts since Election Day itself have all pointed to a win by the incumbent,” McCuan said. “The likelihood of a win by the challenger seems to dim with each additional drop of ballots.”

In Healdsburg, political newcomer Ron Edwards also widened his lead over former council member Brigette Mansell as they face off for a third seat on the council.

Edwards had 46.5% of the vote to 43.9% for Mansell, with 4,164 ballots counted. Edwards led by 111 votes with the addition of about 1,000 new votes, up from 47 during the previous update.

In Petaluma, Karen Nau continued to edge out John Hanania in the District 3 race growing her lead to 154 votes. Nau had 36.9% of the vote, while Hanania captured 31.8%.

Standings in Sebastopol’s race for three council seats remained unchanged, with Stephen Zollman, Jill McLewis and Sandra Maurer leading the pack of five candidates in the race.

You can reach Staff Writer Paulina Pineda at 707-521-5268 or paulina.pineda@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @paulinapineda22.

Paulina Pineda

Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park city reporter

Decisions made by local elected officials have some of the biggest day-to-day impacts on residents, from funding investments in roads and water infrastructure to setting policies to address housing needs and homelessness. As a city reporter, I want to track those decisions and how they affect the community while also highlighting areas that are being neglected or can be improved.

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