Update: As of Wednesday at 5 pm, Dobersen's margin of victory had dropped to under 300 votes. A mandatory recount is expected.
And you thought the Buck-Bennett race was a squeaker? It may be days before veteran Arapahoe County Coroner Michael Dobersen finds out if he's held onto his job, since he and challenger Jay Ledbetter are separated by less than half a percentage point in one of the most sharply contested coroner races in memory.
According to the latest figures posted on the county website, Dobersen leads Ledbetter by a mere 447 votes -- 74,098 to 73,651 -- with several thousand late-straggler ballots left to count.
Dobersen, a nationally known forensic pathologist, has been the county's coroner for seventeen years. But he recently changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, prompting the GOP to field its own candidate in Ledbetter, an attorney. That led to some spirited debate about whether the coroner's function is primarily a legal or medical one, whether Dobersen was taking on too much outside work or Ledbetter had exaggerated his military record, and even a claim from Ledbetter that his opponent had "manipulated evidence" in a criminal case -- a claim Ledbetter later apologized for and retracted.
Just how much voters paid attention to these issues -- or simply went for the "D" or "R" designation in a county which, like much of the Front Range, seems to be suffering an identity crisis about its party affiliations -- isn't clear.
And the outcome isn't, either.
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Caustic coroner at crux of cranky county term-limits crump."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.