Council backs three-way mayoral election


WATERTOWN — Nothing really changed on Monday with the City Council’s vote on a resolution calling for three mayoral candidates placed on the ballot in the November election.

Before the vote, Jefferson County Republican election commissioner Jude R. Seymour told council members he will not change his mind and he’ll only wait for “judicial intervention” to resolve the kerfuffle that left two mayoral candidates tied in the June 25 primary.

Despite acknowledging that many people disagree with his stance, Mr. Seymour said he will not allow the two tying candidates, Allison I. Crossman and Councilman Cody J. Horbacz, to move forward to the November general election.

He plans to certify two candidates but only after a judge renders a decision on who would join former City Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith on the ballot.

“I’ll certify two candidates, not zero, not three, not more than three. Two,” he told council before the vote.

The issue stems from the mayoral race being nonpartisan, and the city’s law doesn’t have a provision in place for ties.

Council members unanimously agreed it was their right to express their opinion that Mrs. Crossman, Councilman Horbacz and Mr. Smith should be on the ballot.

City Council members hoped to break the primary stalemate that left the two candidates tied for second place with 597 votes each. Mr. Smith had the most votes with 837.

On Monday night, City Attorney Robert J. Slye reiterated that the members of the council made it “very clear” 26 years ago that three mayoral candidates should face off each other in a November election if there was a tie during a primary.

Mr. Seymour and Democratic elections commissioner Babette M. Hall disagree what should be done about the tie. She calls for all three candidates to be on the ballot.

The issue revolves around a reading of the city nonpartisan election law, which says “the board of elections shall certify under the hand of its secretary or commissioners the names of the persons who received the largest and next largest number of votes for mayor.”

The resolution supports the belief that the law does not list how many “persons” must be put on the ballot.

Afterward, Mrs. Crossman said “it’s too early” to say whether she plans to file legal action to get her name on the ballot, adding she’ll continue to advocate for the voters. Councilman Horbacz continues to wait to see what happens next.

Over the weekend, Mr. Smith said he believes all three candidates should be on the ballot. He insisted, as the top vote-getter, that he was the definite winner of the primary and he should be certified.

“Although the primary election has traditionally been intended to reduce the field to two competitors, I fully welcome the opportunity to face two opponents,” he said.

But he also said that somebody will have to initiate court action to resolve the issue.

Last week, Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr. requested that the council pass the resolution after concluding that the election commissioners determined that a recount wasn’t justified and there was no provision in the law for a runoff election.

Mr. Seymour said that the situation needs legal action so that future election commissioners will know how to proceed if a tie happens again.

Otherwise, the state Legislature would have to take legal action and that could “take lightyears,” Mr. Slye said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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