Slow Count Leaves Tahoe Candidates in Electoral Limbo

Election day has come and gone, but in some California counties they're still counting ballots and some races are still hanging on the outcome..

The problem? An unprecedented number of mail-in absentee ballots.
There were 15 thousand of them in El Dorado County. Add to that number 15-hundred provisional ballots and 200 ballots with some sort of damage and you start to see the size of the problem.

County election workers tackling the job, but they tell us a final count could be weeks away. That leaves a couple of candidates in South Lake Tahoe in a sort of electoral limbo.

South Lake Tahoe voters were choosing 2 councilmen from a list of 6.
One candidate, Hal Cole, appears safe atop the results with a more than 600 vote margin, the second spot is far from certain.
"I'd rather be here in second place than in third," says local attorney Bruce Grego

That would be Heavenly Ski Resort executive Austin Sass, trialing by 119 votes, but still hopeful. "I'm disappointed I haven't won, but I'm excited to be still in the game."

No one knows how many of those 17-thousand ballots came from South Lake Tahoe, but a proportional guess would put it at something over a thousand, enough mathematically at least, to change the race totally. Certainly enough to reverse Grego's margin over Sass.

Both say there's more at stake than their egos. The 2 men differ on some important issues.
"He doesn't support marketing of tourism," says Sass. "He said that publicly. He doesn't support funding for the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and he's been critical of redevelopment."

Redevelopment, in particular, a privately owned convention center complext known as "Project 3" is a top concern of Grego's. The construction site next to Stateline's hotel casinos sits idle for lack of financing and given the current economic situation that may not change soon.

Grego says the lack of progress on the project is hurting the city and nearby businesses. He'd like to find a way to get it moving again.
Sass says the previous council signed a contract with the developer and there's nothing at this point that Grego or anyone else can do about it.

Grego says he'd also like to work to change the bi-state compact that created the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. He'd like to see members of the TRPA board elected by the public.

Sass points out changing the compact would require an act of Congress, both state legislatures and governors. Unlikely, says Sass. Difficult, but I'd still like to try, says Grego.

For the moment those debates will have to wait for another day. All thetwo can do at the moment is wait .
"I'm confident," says Grego, "but I"m not having any business cards made yet. I'm just going to wait patiently for the outcome."

"I"m like the quarterback who just driven his team down the field with five seconds left and I've sent in my field goal kicker for a 49 yard attempt," says Sass. " All I can do is stand on the sidelines and cheer and root."

There may be a lot of time run off that clock before we know the outcome. Voter Registrar Bill Schultz tells us it could be a couple of weeks or more before all those ballots are counted.

Under California law, election officials have 28 days to complete the count. The new council members will be sworn in on December 9th.


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