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For the first time since the early 1980s, the county assessor/recorder/clerk post is up for grabs.

And in the obscure race, last night’s results brought even more drama.

David Butler, the appointed assessor, garnered 36.8 percent of the vote last night. He’ll face a runoff in November with longtime politician Ernie Dronenburg, who snagged 34.2 percent of the vote.

All precincts are counted, but 160,000 absentee and provisional ballots remain outstanding county-wide.

In April I delved into some of the race’s intrigue.

In a nutshell: Greg Smith, who held the post for 25 years, left in 2008 to work for a real estate magnate. He outlined a plan for how things would go in his absence, but that plan has taken a few surprising turns.

His right-hand man, Butler, took over and became appointed assessor, as planned. Smith pegged Jeff Olson, who’d worked in the office for 20 years, as his endorsed successor in the 2010 election. But then Butler decided he liked the job and wanted to stay, surprising a lot of people, not the least of which was Olson, who’d already begun campaigning.

But Butler didn’t automatically have the race in the bag. His challenger Dronenburg netted endorsements from four members of the county’s Board of Supervisors, the same supervisors who appointed Butler to the seat last year.

So Butler and Dronenburg secured spots on the November ballot. Olson, who campaigned the longest for the seat, received less than half as many votes as Butler — getting just 16.9 percent.

And he beat out the fourth candidate, Howard Johnson, by just 5 percent.

Johnson’s a seemingly perennial candidate for countywide office, whose ballot statement proclaimed, “Enough is enough! Stop the bull!”

— KELLY BENNETT

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