PLEASANT HILL -- Voters kept an incumbent and swept a police officer into office Tuesday, but the winner of the third City Council seat may not be decided until mail-in ballots are counted.

With all precincts reporting, Tim Flaherty leads Jim Bonato by just 45 votes.

When the first returns came in, incumbent David Durant and Ken Carlson, a Concord police officer, led and they never fell behind as the night wore on. With all the precincts reporting, Durant had nearly 18 percent of the vote, and Carlson had won 17 percent.

Early on, Flaherty, a planning commissioner, was solidly in third place with about 14 percent of the vote. But as more votes were counted, his lead over fellow commissioner Bonato continued to shrink. By the time all 21 precincts had reported -- sometime after 1:30 a.m. Wednesday -- Flaherty had bested Bonato by fewer than four dozen votes.

The county elections division has about 60,000 mail-in ballots to count in addition to provisional ballots, according to County Clerk Steve Weir. Staffers expect to release a list of the number of outstanding ballots in each precinct on Thursday. They hope to process the mail-in ballots by Nov. 14.

Bonato said he's not convinced the mail-in ballots will push him over the top.

"But I've still got my fingers crossed, I have not thrown in the towel," he said. "I'm certainly disappointed in my outcome, and I'm certainly very pleased that David Durant has been re-elected. I'm complimentary of Tim Flaherty, he ran a great campaign."

After pumping $12,000 of his money into his campaign, Bonato isn't sure he would bankroll a recount.

The race to replace longtime Pleasant Hill City Clerk Marty McInturf wasn't close. Kim Lehmkuhl, a campaign manager for a national civil rights and voting rights group, won 75 percent of the vote to defeat Michael Bepler, a real-estate agent and builder.

Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.