Mitzi Johanknecht won 59 percent of Wednesday’s vote count. To catch up and keep his post, Sheriff John Urquhart would need to win about 54 percent of the 200,000 estimated remaining votes.

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Moving closer to becoming King County’s next sheriff, Mitzi Johanknecht extended her lead over incumbent John Urquhart in Wednesday’s latest election returns.

The returns showed Johanknecht with nearly 53 percent of the vote, compared with about 52 percent on Tuesday night.

She had 159,129 votes to Urquhart’s 143,343.

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Urquhart, who has been sheriff for the past five years, is seeking his second full term.

Johanknecht, a 32-year Sheriff’s Office veteran, is now serving as the major in charge of the Southwest Precinct in Burien.

Johanknecht won 59 percent of Wednesday’s vote count. To catch up, Urquhart would need to win about 54 percent of the 200,000 estimated remaining votes.

Johanknecht’s campaign manager, Jessica Sullivan, said Wednesday the campaign is “very optimistic” about her chances of winning and likes the way the numbers are trending.

But they aren’t ready to declare victory, she said, and will wait for more ballots to be counted.

Urquhart said Tuesday that a lot of ballots were still to be tabulated.

“Never say die,” a subdued Urquhart said at a small gathering at a downtown pub, while acknowledging the early results didn’t bode well for him.

During the campaign, Johanknecht accused Urquhart of mistreating employees.

Urquhart attributed the attacks to tough new standards he has put in place since taking office more than four years ago. He said he had fired 22 deputies and held commanders more accountable.

Late last year, Urquhart came under fire over his handling of a rape allegation leveled against him by a former deputy. Urquhart didn’t refer the allegation for an internal investigation, saying the FBI already had found the former deputy’s story from years ago to lack credibility.

In the last week of the campaign, leaders of three political-advocacy groups blasted Urquhart over what they described as his mistreatment of the woman and of another former deputy who recently alleged Urquhart inappropriately touched him in 2014.

The 2014 groping allegation has been referred to the Renton Police Department, which is conducting a criminal investigation.

Urquhart filed a defamation lawsuit last week against the former deputy that contends the allegations are malicious, politically motivated lies made “for the purpose of causing substantial and irreparable harm” to derail the sheriff’s re-election bid.

After joining the Sheriff’s Office in 1985, Johanknecht became a captain in 1998 and has spent time in supervisory roles in field operations, patrol operations, technical services and special-operations divisions.

With her assignment to command the Criminal Investigations Division in 2013, Johanknecht became the first full-time female deputy to lead TAC-30, the Sheriff’s Office’s SWAT team. She also has led two precincts.

Urquhart — the blunt-talking former media-relations officer who parlayed his name recognition into a successful bid for sheriff in 2012 — retired with a sergeant’s rank before running for sheriff.