Incumbent Del Norte Superior Court Judge Chris Doehle was the lead vote-getter in Tuesday's election for the seat on the bench, making her poised to face the second-place candidate, local attorney and Del Norte public defender Darren McElfresh, in a runoff election in November.
But with 854 votes still left to be counted, Doehle has a good chance of avoiding a runoff altogether.
Doehle needs at least 496 of the 854 ballots left uncounted to go in her favor to avoid a runoff election in November.
A candidate must receive50 percent of the vote plus one vote in order to avoid a runoff election, and as of Wednesday evening, Doehle had 48.6 percent with 2,381 votes.
County Clerk/Recorder Alissia Northrup said that judging from the ballots already counted as well as from past elections she's seen, a majority of the votes going to Doehle is unlikely but "it's not over yet."
"What happens is that the [uncounted ballots] are pretty consistent with what you've already seen," Northrup said. "It'd be unusual for these to go completely one way. They usually closely follow the divisions of what we've already seen. I've never seen it, but I'm sure it could happen."
McElfresh, who took 36 percent with 1,774 votes, was encouraged by Tuesday's results, saying that "it appears to be that voters are not satisfied and want some change."
Candidate Dohn Henion, who has served as a municipal attorney for various local agencies, garnered 15 percent with 729 votes, and said that he was wishing success for Judge Doehle in the runoff election.
Henion thanked all of those who supported his candidacy and congratulated Doehle on running a very ethical campaign.
There are specific standards of ethics for what a judicial candidate can say during an election, and Henion congratulated Doehle on playing by those rules.
Preparing for the possibility of a runoff, Doehle said she was looking forward to "continuing the campaign and getting the word out. The feedback I'm getting is really positive, and I'm gratified by the endorsements I've gotten. I think that people are seeing the good job that I'm doing."
McElfresh said he still has a lot of work to do, and he is looking forward to a fall race in which he can continue to run a campaign that advocates being tough on repeat offenders "that commit crime after crime without any ramifications."
Staff writer Aaron West contributed to this report. Reach Adam Spencer firstname.lastname@example.org.