People walk in and out of the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office to drop off ballots and register to vote on Tuesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

People walk in and out of the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office to drop off ballots and register to vote on Tuesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Sanders and Biden are in a dead heat in Washington’s primary

Bernie Sanders has a slight edge statewide, but Joe Biden is winning in Snohomish County.

The duel between Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden split Democratic voters in Washington’s presidential primary Tuesday.

Sanders collected 32.7% of the Democratic vote statewide to Biden’s 32.5% as roughly 2,000 votes separated the two men battling for the right to take on President Donald Trump this fall.

In Snohomish County, the surging Biden led with 34.2%, followed closely by Sanders with 32.5%. Only 1,774 votes separated the two in the initial tally of ballots.

Biden led Sanders by margins of 40% to 26% in Edmonds and 43% to 25% in Mill Creek in first night totals. Sanders was ahead of Biden in Everett 38% to 29%.

Across Washington, Biden led in 21 counties, including Snohomish, Pierce and Spokane. Sanders led in King County, where his progressive polices may resonate loudest, and 17 others.

Snohomish County Democratic Party Chairwoman Hillary Moralez said she wasn’t surprised by the tight contest in the county or the state. Though, she said, it may not end up that way.

“It will be interesting to see what happens these next few days,” she said. “I think it will lean a little more toward Sanders in the later counts.”

There were 13 candidates on the Democratic ballot though 11 had dropped out or not campaigned in the state. Still, they accounted for nearly a third of the Democratic votes in the county and across the state.

Elizabeth Warren, who left the race following a disappointing performance on Super Tuesday, garnered 12.3% statewide Tuesday and 10.7% in Snohomish County.

Michael Bloomberg, who plastered the airwaves with television ads and flooded mailboxes with literature, collected 11.1% in the state and 11.3% in the county. Pete Buttigieg stood fifth with 5.8% in Washington and 5.9% in the county.

Republicans had but one choice, President Donald Trump. That didn’t deter a greater participation of the Grand Old Party members than in 2016.

In Snohomish County, for example, Trump received 48,458 votes, about 5,000 more than he collected in 2016 — and there are still several days of ballot counting to go.

“In a race on our side that was meaningless, to have that many people choose to mark the ballot was encouraging,” said state Republican Party chairman Caleb Heimlich.

The closeness of the Democratic contest means it will be several days before Sanders and Biden know how many of the state’s 89 delegates each will be getting.

Of the total, 58 will be apportioned based on results in each of the state’s 10 congressional districts. Some, but not all of the remainder will be distributed based on their statewide performance.

Biden, on the strength of electoral successes on Super Tuesday, was leading Sanders in the delegate race ahead of primaries Tuesday in Washington and five other states — Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and North Dakota.

Four years ago, Sanders walloped Hillary Clinton in caucuses which drew an estimated 250,000 people statewide. He captured 76% in Snohomish County and roughly 70% statewide. But in the primary, where 802,000 people cast a Democratic ballot, Clinton garnered the majority.

This year presented Democratic voters with a very similar ideological match-up of a progressive, Sanders, and a moderate, Biden. But the rules are different. Delegates will be distributed based on results of the primary, not caucuses which made Tuesday of the broader appeal of their respective messages.

The next update of results will be completed Wednesday afternoon.

Herald writer Joseph Thompson contributed to this report.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald Twitter: @dospueblos.

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