Terry Withrow surged ahead of Bill Lyons in the latest incomplete vote tabulation for an open Stanislaus County supervisor's seat, and Supervisor Dick Monteith seems assured of keeping his job in another race.
With less than 2,000 votes left to count among more than 69,500 cast in Tuesday's election, Withrow leads by 89 votes, a dramatic turnaround from previously announced tallies. He said it's too early to celebrate, but Lyons appeared to concede in a voice mail message to a Bee reporter.
"I want to congratulate Terry," Lyons said, offering his help to Withrow and the county and saying he was trying to reach Withrow, apparently to concede.
If Withrow's lead holds, the win would signal an impressive triumph for a political rookie against a former state agriculture secretary with a storied history in public service — and an extensive Rolodex, judging from Lyons' huge campaign bank account. He raised and spent about five times as much money as Withrow, a certified public accountant and part-time farmer.
"Bill is a formidable opponent, that's for sure," Withrow said Friday evening, minutes after news broke of the updated vote count. "We're amazed we've been able to make it this far."
Withrow captured 5,127 votes, or 50.27 percent, to Lyons' 5,038 votes, or 49.4 percent, according to the latest figures for District 3. Previous updates gave Lyons the edge by a larger margin, but the county clerk-recorder's office said then that 24,000 ballots remained to count.
The winner will succeed Jeff Grover at the end of the year in the district, which includes northwest Modesto and Salida.
Monteith, a first-term incumbent and former state senator, was never in doubt as to his front-runner status for District 4, including north-central Modesto and Del Rio. But he would have had to campaign an extra five months if he failed to capture more than half of Tuesday's vote, and his tally wasn't far over the line in previous updates.
But Friday's count showed Monteith receiving 8,360 votes, or 52.18 percent. Former Modesto Councilman Balvino Irizarry's hopes of forcing a November runoff seemed to fade; he captured 5,078 votes, or 31.69 percent, and former mayor Carmen Sabatino had 2,518 votes, or 15.72 percent.
Election workers Friday completed tabulating nearly 20,000 absentee ballots from throughout the county delivered close to Election Day. Yet to be counted are as many as 1,500 provisional ballots plus 350 from military personnel serving elsewhere or last-minute replacements for damaged vote cards.
It isn't known how many were cast in District 3; the five supervisorial districts contain roughly equal populations.
Counting will pick up again Monday, Clerk-Recorder Lee Lundrigan said in a release.
Lyons sounded reflective in his voice mail, saying: "Most important thing, I've got my health, my family and my friends. That's really what it's all about."
Withrow said: "I was told at the beginning, when this thing first started, that I was wasting my time. Regardless of where this ends up, I'm very happy."
He said his wife was thrilled when he called with news of the latest tally. "I think she had to sit down," he said.
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2390.