Former Sheriff Concedes in Historic Election Recount


Kelsey Marx, Staff Writer

After nine months, a lawsuit, and a historic electoral recount, former Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran has conceded to now-Sheriff John Idleburg. 

Late into election night on Nov. 6, 2018, the Daily Herald reported that Curran, the Republican incumbent, had won a fourth term as Lake County’s chief law enforcement officer, apparently defeating Democratic challenger John Idleburg. After considering the final absentee and provisional ballots, the Lake County Clerk’s office later certified that Idleburg had in fact defeated Curran by 137 votes — a margin of just 0.056 percent in the county-wide race.

In December, Curran and his Republican allies filed suit against Idleburg and the Lake County clerk, alleging that “numerous invalid ballots were wrongly counted” and “numerous valid ballots [were] wrongly not counted.” Curran was then allowed to oversee a partial recount of up to 25% of the votes. Had the result conflicted with the original count, a full recount would have been automatically triggered. 

Instead, the partial recount further affirmed Curran’s defeat, but it nonetheless allowed them to gather evidence for the lawsuit. Republican litigators disputed 358 individual ballots that were either votes for Curran, which were not counted due to stray or incomplete marks, or ballots for Idleburg that were counted but allegedly should not have been. The number of contested ballots was greater than the margin by which Idleburg won, meaning that if all allegations were found true, Mark Curran would have won the election. 

After months of back-and-forth in court, the Lake County Clerk’s office began an historic, larger recount on the following condition: if the recount showed that Curran had actually won, the Clerk’s office would have to foot the bill for the process, but if the recount affirmed the Clerk’s original result —that John Idleburg had in fact been elected —the Republican lawyers were financially responsible for the process. The bet brought forth a potential price tag of $15,000, and both parties were willing to take the risk.

On Aug. 1, a team of Clerk employees, lawyers, and volunteers began to painstakingly recount each individual vote. Just two days into the process, it became apparent that the result would not change. On Aug. 3, Mark Curran officially conceded to John Idleburg, who had been fulfilling his duties as Sheriff since he was sworn in on Dec. 1. 

Curran is not done with politics, however. He announced this week that he would run as a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate next year.

Though tumultuous, the ordeal served as a testament to the integrity of the electoral process in Lake County and beyond. The recount successfully established a winner in the Lake County Sheriff election, as intended. But perhaps more importantly, the process brought volunteers from both sides together and proved that the will of the people can always prevail through our democractic process.