Warnock ahead of Harper

Democratic candidate for Thurston County coroner Gary Warnock was leading his Republican opponent, Terry Harper, in early election returns Tuesday night.

Both Warnock, 42, and Harper, 46, work as deputy coroners under Coroner Judy Arnold, who is retiring after serving for more than 20 years. Arnold endorsed fellow Democrat Warnock.

Warnock declined to celebrate Tuesday night.

"I'm just going to be cautious," he said, noting that there are many votes left to count.

During the campaign, Warnock and Harper both talked about the need for hiring an administrative assistant to help with office work.

Warnock also emphasized the work he'd do to reduce auto fatalities among the county's young adults by continuing his activities going into local schools to show slides of crash scenes in a "scared straight" effort.

Harper, on the other hand, emphasized the changes he'd bring to the office, with an eye toward reorganizing the office and creating budget efficiencies by changing deputy coroner work schedules, for example.