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7:21 AM Tue, Sept. 18th

ELECTION 2011: Chino Valley mayoral race too close to call

Salina Sialega/Courtesy<br>Looking at unofficial election results on a laptop computer during a break from Tuesday's town council meeting are, from left, council candidate Darryl Croft, current council member Carl Tenney, Mitzi Conn, the wife of council candidate James Conn, and mayoral candidate Chris Marley.

Salina Sialega/Courtesy<br>Looking at unofficial election results on a laptop computer during a break from Tuesday's town council meeting are, from left, council candidate Darryl Croft, current council member Carl Tenney, Mitzi Conn, the wife of council candidate James Conn, and mayoral candidate Chris Marley.

CHINO VALLEY - The only candidate who looked like a sure thing after early results came in Tuesday night in the Chino Valley mayor and council race was Chino Valley businessman Lon Turner, who received an unofficial 1,250 votes of the unofficial 2,201 ballots cast. Turner could win one of the three open council seats, and voters will have to decide the other two seats in the run-off May 17 General Election.

The two candidates for mayor, incumbent Jim Bunker and newcomer Chris Marley, were within 24 votes of each other in the early results, Marley ahead with 1,095 votes to Bunker's 1,071. To win, one of the candidates will have to get 50 percent plus one vote of the ballots cast, or 1,102, using the unofficial results. Seven were unofficial write-in votes for mayor.

With neither claiming the win, Bunker, a truck driver, said, "It's whatever folks decide. I had a life before being on the council and I'll be glad to get back to it."

Marley, an associate pastor and retired air conditioning mechanic, answered both ways: "If I win, we can begin the process of giving the Town of Chino Valley back its rightful owners - the citizens. And if I lose, I see nothing but blue skies ahead for Chino. This should be exciting."

The Yavapai County Elections Office posted the unofficial results a little after 7 p.m. on its website from mail-in ballots. Another 38 ballots left to be verified are from voters who placed them in the official drop-off box in front of town hall, according to Chino Valley Town Clerk Jami Lewis, and additional ballots that election officials received at the county building in Prescott.

Final results may be available by the end of today, Lewis said Tuesday night.

For the two remaining open council seats, none of the remaining candidates received 50 percent plus one votes of the unofficial ballots cast, or 1,102 votes, and will go to a run-off election on May 17. The unofficial results from Tuesday night showed Darryl Croft, retired U.S. Navy and a retired personnel manager for an irrigation company, with 988 votes; Mike Best, a retired crane mechanic, with 955; James Conn, a general contractor, with 808 votes; Charlotte "Charlie" Marriott, a medical professional, with 814; and Donna Williams, a registered nurse, with 724. Thirteen votes were unofficial write-in votes.

Lewis said even the mayoral race could go to the run-off election.

"If something bizarre happened (like neither candidate receiving 50 percent plus one vote), both could go to the run-off."