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Incumbent Athens County Auditor Jill Thompson, a Republican, appeared to have fended off Democratic challenger Ric Wasserman in Tuesday’s election, according to preliminary results. Thompson was the only Republican on the ballot to win a majority of votes in Athens County’s preliminary election results.
Wasserman declined to concede the election when he spoke to the Independent Tuesday night, citing provisional votes yet to be counted. Athens County Board of Elections Director Debbie Quivey said a little more than 1,000 ballots were not yet counted in the results released Tuesday night.
Preliminary results had Thompson ahead by 646 votes. Thompson said she did not believe there were enough outstanding ballots to change the outcome.
“I am truly humbled and extremely grateful to have overwhelming bipartisan support in Athens County,” Thompson said. “It is my privilege to serve; it is an honor to serve. This is my home, and I’m just grateful.”
This year’s election was a rematch of that in 2002, when Thompson defeated Wasserman 62.55% to 37.45%. This time, Thompson appeared to win by a narrower margin of 51.8% to 48.2%, according to the preliminary results.
Should the preliminary results carry, Thompson, 53, of Athens, will serve a sixth full term as auditor. She was first appointed to the office in 2000.
According to the County Auditors’ Association of Ohio, the auditor’s responsibilities include ensuring fair appraisal and assessment of real estate, disbursing tax dollars to county agencies, bookkeeping for elected officials and county agencies, issuing dog licenses and more. Auditors serve four-year terms.
Thompson and Wasserman offered different visions for how the county auditor should operate locally. Thompson previously told the Independent she views the auditor’s role as that of a “watchdog,” keeping a check on elected officials and county institutions. Wasserman, 57, of Coolville, described Thompson’s posture in the role as unnecessarily adversarial and said he would place a greater emphasis on positive working relationships with elected officials.
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Thompson also campaigned on a track record of enhancing the transparency and accessibility of her office.
Ultimately, Thompson’s vision for the auditor’s office appeared to win the day.
“I believe [voters] said they want a bipartisan courthouse; they want a watchdog,” Thompson said. “They want somebody who’s going to call out wrongs and stop the fraud, waste and abuse. That’s what they elected me to do, and that’s what I’m going to keep doing.”
Wasserman, a local business owner, has served as county treasurer since 2018, after an appointment to the position.
In recent years, Wasserman and Thompson have repeatedly butted heads over the management of the Athens County Land Bank, specifically around an expedited foreclosure process the land bank uses to take over abandoned and tax-delinquent properties.
NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect information from the Athens County Board of Elections on the number provisional ballots yet to be counted.
Keri Johnson, Isabel Nissley and Malaya Tindongan contributed to this reporting.
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