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Snelgrove takes lead in Salt Lake County Council race

Richard Snelgrove, Salt Lake County council member, discusses west side economic development during a press conference outside of the Rio Tinto Distribution Center in South Jordan on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.
Richard Snelgrove, Salt Lake County council member, discusses west side economic development during a press conference outside of the Rio Tinto Distribution Center in South Jordan on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Republicans may maintain control of the Salt Lake County Council after all.

At-large County Councilman Richard Snelgrove made a wild comeback Friday after lagging more than 5,000 votes behind Democratic challenger Catherine Kanter on election night.

The Salt Lake County Clerk's Office counted 38,000 more ballots Friday, and results released at 5 p.m. showed Snelgrove had not only closed the gap but bounced ahead of Kanter by more than 6,600 votes.

Snelgrove said he was not surprised Friday, noting that he expected the dynamics of the race to change after more final-hour mail-in ballots were counted.

"An analysis of the election night total would suggest there was some anomalies," he said, adding that the Democratic turnout was initially much higher than Republicans. "The numbers were heavily skewed Democratic."

Snelgrove said he figured more Republicans waited until Election Day to cast their ballots because of uncertainty in the presidential contest, while Democrats mailed in their votes sooner because they weren't as conflicted over their nominee.

However, an estimated 87,000 Salt Lake County votes still remain to be counted, meaning Snelgrove's now 2 percent lead may not hold.

Kanter remained optimistic Friday, despite her sudden drop.

"Obviously I'd rather be ahead, so these numbers are somewhat disappointing," she said. "But I have reason to believe that we're going to bounce back next week."

That's because Kanter said she recently toured the county clerk's office and learned they were counting ballots sorted by district.

Friday's results included votes from District 3 — which is comprised of West Valley, West Jordan and Murray — while outstanding ballots from other districts remain. That includes District 1, which includes Democratic-leaning and densely populated Salt Lake City.

"That suggests I'm going to bounce back," Kanter said. "It's still a close race, but I'm still very optimistic."

The next election results update is expected at 3 p.m. Tuesday.