WATERTOWN — City Councilman Cody J. Horbacz on Wednesday morning was still processing his third place finish in the mayoral primary on the night before.
He woke up at 5 a.m. and had to be in Syracuse for an early business meeting with a client, so hadn’t had much time to think about what happened.
“It’s tough,” he said. “It’s tough to figure out.”
He should know his political fate when 147 absentee ballots — eight more came in on Wednesday morning after 139 had already been received — are counted on Monday.
The first-term councilman still hopes that he might eke out a chance to face Mr. Smith, who received 773 votes on Tuesday, in the Nov. 5 general election.
With four candidates in Tuesday’s mayoral primary, his third-place finish puts him down 14 votes from political newcomer Allison I. Crossman. A fourth candidate, Cliff G. Olney III, finished with 350 votes.
If Tuesday’s vote holds up, the mayoral race will be between former City Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith and Mrs. Crossman, with Councilman Horbacz then out of the race.
It could also end his political career as his four-year term on council expires on Dec. 31.
The councilman had thought more people would have come out to vote than the 2,274 cast on Tuesday night, saying he expected it to be about 3.000 with four mayoral candidates and eight City Council candidates running.
He’s still not sure why he landed in third on primary day.
“But I’m thinking a lot of it was a four-way race and votes definitely got split up,” he said, stressing that Mr. Smith received just 34 percent of the vote.
All four candidates were savvy enough to work on getting their supporters to send in absentee ballots, so it’s “just unpredictable” whether he can catch up to Mrs. Crossman, he said.
“I still feel pretty confident that I’ll be moving to the general election,” Mrs. Crossman said Wednesday.
She credits working hard and having the right message as reasons for her success on Tuesday night. As the newcomer, she knew early on that she had to have a large photo of her on her yard signs, so people could match her face with the name.
She also sought out the advice from people who know about local politics, such as former Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham and Mike Flynn, an independent political consultant who lives in Black River.
Now it comes down to absentee ballots.
During his political career, Councilman Horbacz has had his share of experiences with absentee ballots, one that benefited him and one that did not.
Then a political newcomer, he was ahead by 15 votes over then-former Councilman Smith in 2013. When the votes were counted, however, Mr. Smith surpassed him, accumulating 1,217 votes to his 1,163.
Two years later, Councilman Horbacz ran again and won a seat on the council.
So what happens if he loses?
He doesn’t see himself running for political office again, the one-term councilman said.
“But I’m not going to say my concession speech,” he said.
No matter what, Councilman Horbacz said he plans to stay active in the community. He’ll continue to be involved in Watertown First, a nonprofit group organizing three block parties on Public Square this summer. He’ll also advance neighborhood issues and promote local businesses.
“I’m not going away,” he said, adding that he loves his city.
Both candidates plan to attend the counting of absentee ballots at the Jefferson County Board of Elections office on Monday.
Besides the absentees, there are perhaps as many as 20 affidavit ballots that could be counted, making it easier for him to catch up to the young mother.
An affidavit ballot is a ballot used when a voter’s name is not listed at a designated polling place. The person is allowed to vote and it’s decided later if the vote can be counted.