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Originally published Monday, November 12, 2012 at 8:12 PM

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2 legislative races remain tight in Southwest Washington district

Both political parties have turned their attention to Vancouver and the 17th Legislative District, where Democratic Rep. Tim Probst leads incumbent Republican Sen. Don Benton by 16 votes and Democrat Monica Stonier is 81 votes ahead of Republican Julie Olson for a House seat.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The state Republican and Democratic parties have turned their attention to Vancouver and the 17th Legislative District, where two races are too close to call and one of those is excruciatingly close.

Just 16 votes separate Republican state Sen. Don Benton and Democratic Rep. Tim Probst in a contest that will determine whether Democrats maintain their 27-22 Senate majority or see it eroded by one position.

Probst, who was winning on election night, lost the lead Thursday and regained it Friday. With Clark County election offices closed Monday, there won't be another vote count until late Tuesday.

On the House side, Democrat Monica Stonier led Republican Julie Olson by 81 votes in their contest for the seat being vacated by Probst. Olson held a 78-vote lead on election night.

Republicans will gain two seats in the House if Olson wins, one if she loses.

Staffers and volunteers from both political parties are in Vancouver contacting voters who forgot to sign their ballot envelopes or whose signatures didn't match signatures on file, encouraging the voters to submit affidavits authenticating their ballots.

"These are the 200 most popular people in Clark County now," said Kevin Carns, political director of the House Republican Organizational Committee.

Whatever the outcome of the Olson-Stonier election, Carns said, Republicans will reduce the House Democratic majority by a vote or two from the current 56-42 balance. "That's three cycles in a row we gained seats. As far as I can tell, we're the only Obama state in the country that picked up (Republican) seats in the Legislature."

The Benton-Probst race will be "a squeaker one way or another," said Michael King, Senate Democratic Campaign Committee executive director. "We think at the end of the day Tim will walk away with this."

The Republican Party will gain one seat in the Senate if Benton wins.

In other contests, the GOP picked up two seats, through Rep. Bruce Dammeier's victory over Eric Herde for an open seat in the 25th District in Pierce County and Rep. Barbara Bailey's defeat of Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen in the 10th District, which includes Island County and parts of Skagit and Snohomish counties.

Those Republican gains were partly offset by Democrat Mark Mullet's decisive victory over Brian Toft in King County's 5th District. Toft conceded to Mullet on Friday.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

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