Republican Marty Smith and his family held their breath as county clerk's office staffer Jessica Goodman recorded the final unofficial results on the whiteboard in the courthouse rotunda.
She wrote 4,427 for Ginger Brucks, and 4,443 for Smith.
Then they exhaled -- and cheered.
"It was almost like a last minute football game," Smith said. "It went down to the wire.
"I knew all along it was going to be close. Ginger put up a good fight. She worked hard. I knew it was going to be close."
The results were close enough that Brucks said she plans to request a recount, just to be sure.
"I plan to do that. I'm checking on that now to see what I need to do," she said Wednesday morning.
Otherwise, Brucks echoed Smith's comments about the campaign.
"I felt I ran a good campaign. I worked hard, and I'm not ashamed of the turnout at all," she said. "I wish Mr. Smith well if it turns out he is the one in the office."
The use tax issue had Presiding Commissioner Tom Stallings posted at the courthouse to see early returns. Stallings and commissioners Monte Fenner and Norvelle "Brownie" Brown had argued that without voter permission to implement the tax, the county budget would take a serious blow after the state Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that sales tax cannot be levied on out-of-state purchases.
The use tax prevailed, though, with 4,983 "yes" votes to 3,730 "no" votes.
"We appreciate everyone who voted for it and all the people who allowed us to come talk about it," Stallings said.
In other contested races, long-time sheriff Wally George held off a strong challenge by former reserve deputy and retired state trooper Leo Grothaus. George received 5,772 votes to Grothaus' 3,270 votes.
Grothaus was at the courthouse to see the final results posted.
"I told all these guys win, lose or draw, we hold our heads up," he said. "We pushed him on every issue. I think we won the issue battle, but the problem we fought was the name recognition. I'd like to have won it, but I'm proud of these guys, and I'm proud of the way we ran it."
Grothaus said he may have lost the battle, but he might not be ready to concede the war.
"We'll evaluate that and probably figure that out," he said. "I'm going to keep my signs, because we will probably do it again in four years."
George said in a recent interview that he is used to being challenged, noting he's only had one "free ride" or uncontested race in his 33 years as sheriff.
"I'm very appreciative of the support my people give me," George said, noting that in his long tenure as sheriff, he has earned the trust of the people. "I'm always here for my folks. We're all a team. I'm just one of the citizens. I take care of them and they take care of me."
Regarding criticism of the department's operation, George said challengers often have ideas that he believes are unrealistic, given the resources the county has.
In another contested race, the one for southern district commissioner, appointed incumbent Monte Fenner (D) retained the office with 3,579 votes to challenger Eric Rader's 1,431.
Before the results were posted, the topic of conversation as weary poll workers arrived with equipment and ballots was the high turnout in the county.
Unofficially, more than 58 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Experienced poll workers at some precincts said the turnout was the highest they had ever seen. For others, it was the highest in a number of years.
Louise Blumhorst and Jim Chevalier of Marshall's Ward 4 said voters cast more than 1,000 ballots. Chevalier said the most he could remember previously was a little more than 300.
"It was a super day," Blumhorst said. "We had excellent help."
The turnout was good in other areas of the county, too.
Clyde Leimkuehler and Anita Copeland of Miami precinct said they were pleased.
"We had a real good turnout -- 237 votes," Copeland said. "We were shocked."
Watching Election Results: With the Democrats
Watching election returns: With the Republicans
County results line up with state, national tallies
Local results for national races:
Local results for state races:
Saline County election results:
Commissioners thank voters for supporting use tax
Saline County Election Statistics for 2008 through 2012