Brent Wilkes, the Democratic mayoral candidate who trails Republican Mayor Scott Johnson by 226 votes after Tuesday’s election, wouldn’t concede defeat Wednesday.
“I really want to make sure of the numbers,” Wilkes said.
He wants to see the voting machine totals and make sure there are no irregularities that might give him additional votes.
There are 514 absentee ballots yet to be counted in the Saratoga Springs races for mayor and two City Council seats. The Saratoga County Board of Elections has received 367 of the ballots, which had to be postmarked by Nov. 7. The absentee ballots won’t be counted until Nov. 16.
“I don’t believe the absentee votes will make up for the 226 votes,” Wilkes said. Instead, he’s looking for a possible voting machine error in his favor. “I have no interest in dragging this out,” Wilkes said.
The voting machine canvass starts today.
Johnson, who will start his third two-year term Jan. 1 if his lead holds, said Wednesday he can work with a City Council where the political balance will shift from Republican to Democrat. Democrat Chris Mathiesen defeated current Public Safety Commissioner Richard Wirth, a Republican, and Democrat Michele Madigan defeated Republican Finance Commissioner Kenneth Ivins.
“I have every intention of working with the two newcomers and just putting partisan politics aside and do the city’s business,” Johnson said.
Johnson, 56, a retired lawyer, devotes full time to the mayor’s position, which pays only $14,500 per year. He donates his city salary to charity. He said during his campaign that he takes a bipartisan approach to his administration and has stepped across party lines on such projects as a proposed 180-car parking deck to be built where the Woodlawn Avenue parking lot is located.
Johnson said he was disturbed about the relatively low voter turnout in Saratoga Springs.
Patrick Kane of Saratoga Springs, Wilkes’ campaign coordinator, said the lower than average voter turnout helped his candidate. Kane said Wilkes sent out mailings targeting the Democratic voters in the city as well as those people who signed the petition for Saratoga Citizen.
Wilkes and Kane are leaders of Saratoga Citizen, a nonpartisan, grass-roots organization that advocates a change in the city charter from the current commission form of government to a more modern city council/city manager form.
The current City Council has fought placing the charter change referendum on the ballot.
Wirth said Wednesday the low voter turnout hurt him at the polls. There are more enrolled Republicans in the city than Democrats.
“I feel good about what I have accomplished in two years,” he said.
Wirth wished Mathiesen well and said he hopes the Democrat continues the programs he has introduced during his tenure.
John Herrick, the city Republican Committee chairman, said, “It was a disappointing night for us.” He said he was especially surprised to see Ivins defeated. He said Ivins just recently unveiled a proposed 2012 city budget that included only a 0.54 percent tax increase.
“He brought us through difficult times,” Herrick said.
Ivins lost to Madigan by an unofficial 287 votes and Wirth lost to Mathiesen by an unofficial 317 votes.
Madigan said “We ran a good campaign; we didn’t get personal.” She said her key issues were taxes going up in recent years and the handling of city finances during Ivins’ two terms in office.
The commissioners are each paid $14,500 per year, like the mayor.
Mathiesen said Wednesday he had “no idea” how he was able to win the public safety seat. The local dentist is a former member and chairman of the city Zoning Board of Appeals.
“I put the issues out there and the people responded,” he said. One of his issues was changing the closing time for bars on Caroline Street and other parts of the city from 4 a.m. to 3 a.m. to reduce early morning violence and street fighting.