Walnut vote count to decide council election this morning

It ain’t over until it’s over. And this one won’t end until this morning. That sums up the Walnut City Council election, left in limbo Tuesday night by 645 uncounted ballots and a pending claim of polling place incompetence in a race in which at least 2,135 people voted.

“There could be a change,” said City Clerk Teresa De Dios Wednesday afternoon, after dropping off provisional ballots for verification with the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder County Clerk’s Office in Norwalk.

She and electoral consultant Linda Gair are working with the county on verifying all untabulated ballots. They say they will reveal new vote totals at 11 a.m. Monday. The count will be open to the public and take place at the City Council Chambers at 21201 La Puente Road.

Although first-place finisher Nancy Tragarz, the current mayor, is well ahead with 2,135 votes, the battles for the second and third spots on the five-member council are much closer, and the outcomes remain uncertain.

Tony Cartagena, a 12-year council veteran, came in second in the unofficial tally with 1,746 votes. Challenger John Saleeby took the third seat with an even 1,700 votes. But once the uncounted ballots are tallied, Saleeby could be overtaken by fourth-place finisher Eric Ching, who with 1,649 is only 51 votes behind.

It would be unlikely for fifth-place finisher Michael West, with 1,333 votes, to leapfrog over Ching and Saleeby into a council seat.

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