MONTGOMERY COUNTY — Absentee ballots have left the Conservative Party primary race for Montgomery County District 1 county coroner deadlocked at 32-32.
Ariel Santiago, an Amsterdam city police officer, had been leading the race 31-27 until the county Board of Elections counted the 10 absentee ballots cast for the race.
Terry Bieniek, Montgomery County’s Democratic election commissioner, said John DeStefano received five of the absentee ballots, Santiago got one of them, and two of them were “undervotes,” meaning the person either did not vote for coroner or otherwise invalidated the ballot by filling it out incorrectly. Bieniek said two absentee ballots were from people who also voted by going to the polls, so those two absentee ballots were thrown out.
The news of the lead change had not yet reached both candidates by Tuesday evening.
“It’s a tie?” Santiago said Tuesday evening. “I didn’t read anything up on that, and nobody gave me any information.”
Bieniek said the results are still unofficial, but will be certified on Monday. He said if the tie remains in place, the Montgomery County Conservative Party Committee will choose the winner.
Conservative Party Chairman Pete Phelps said it is still possible that there could be additional Conservative Party absentee ballots from U.S. military personnel serving overseas, provided the post mark on the voter’s ballot is June 24 or earlier and received by the County Board of Elections by July 3.
“Most likely there aren’t, but you never know. There might be somebody out there that wanted to vote,” Phelps said.
Santiago said he doesn’t know what his chances will be if the election is decided by the Conservative Party Committee. He said he believes his opponent DeStefano approached Phelps about running in the county Conservative Party primary before he did.
DeStefano could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Phelps said the Conservative Party Committee has never had to break a tie in a primary vote before. He said he hasn’t decided which candidate he will support, because he doesn’t know how the rest of the committee will vote.
He said he wouldn’t comment on the situation until next Monday.
Neither Santiago nor DeStefano ran in any other party primary, which means the winner of the Conservative Party primary will be the only name for that office listed on the ballot.