BUFFALO, NY-- One of the big matchups we continue to watch is the race for Erie County Sheriff.

Democrat Bernie Tolbert is challenging the Republican incumbent Tim Howard. With 98 percent of the votes it, Howard is leading Tolbert by about 3,850 votes. We may not find out a winner until all absentee ballots are counted, which could take days.

On Wednesday, Tolbert said he called Howard to congratulate him on his "apparent win.” The key word being "apparent win.” Tolbert isn't throwing in the towel just yet.

The race is still considered too close to call for the Tolbert camp. At last check with the Erie County board of elections Tolbert trailed Howard by 3850 votes.

According to the Erie County Board of Elections over 7,300 absentee ballots have been returned. They will begin counting absentee ballots on Nov. 21 after all military ballots are returned.

Howard, who declared himself the winner already, has been sheriff for the last 12 years and is looking for a 4th term.

Tolbert was the former special agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI office.

The Chairman for the Erie County Democratic Party says Tolbert is not conceding.

Tolbert sent out a statement to the media on Wednesday regarding the election:

I placed a call to Sheriff Howard earlier this morning to congratulate him on his apparent win and also to tell him that, given the extraordinary closeness of the race, I believe it is prudent and sensible to await the official vote certification by the Erie County Board of Elections, which includes the tally of all absentee ballots.

Not only was it a close race, it was a tough, hard fought contest. Strong words were used and sharp elbows thrown on both sides. However, it is now time to put all of that behind us and work together for our community.

The men and women in uniform who protect us – in the sheriff’s office and every law enforcement agency in the county – all have my respect and appreciation. The growing problem of the jails becoming catch basins for the addicted and those suffering from mental illness has to be addressed in a bigger way, not just managed on the margins. This is not one individual or one office’s problem, it is a community problem, here in Western New York, across the New York State, and throughout the nation.

My love for our community is what motivates my desire to serve. Western New York is a special place, the best place on earth. I was reminded of this time and time again as I campaigned throughout the county. I will always cherish the support and fellowship I encountered in every town, village and election district.

Our values in Western New York are hard work, dignity in who we are, and respect for each other. We are the community of good neighbors and good friends. We help each other out, we don’t turn our back. Let’s raise up those values. Let’s show the nation that we are one community working together for everyone’s greater good.

Thank you to everyone who supported my campaign, who marched with us, rang doorbells, made phone calls, watched the polls, and rallied voters. I am blessed to have had your support.