It will be at least a week before the final results are known in the tight race for Malta town supervisor, a contest with countywide implications.
In a potential upset, final but unofficial results from the Saratoga County Board of Elections give Democrat Cynthia Young a 12-vote lead over incumbent Republican Paul Sausville, 1,537 to 1,525.
However, there are still 110 absentee ballots to be counted — nearly two thirds of them from registered Republicans. That makes it too soon to predict the final result.
The absentee count will begin at 10 a.m. next Wednesday at the Board of Elections office in Ballston Spa.
“I’m optimistic,” Young said Wednesday. “I can’t be 100 percent, but the absentees last time were about even. I think I even picked up two or three votes.”
The Malta race has been closely watched across the county because Sausville would be in line to chair the county Board of Supervisors next year and because Malta is the hub of the county’s high-tech activity, which has spurred debates about how the town is changing.
The town’s voter enrollment favors the Republicans and there hasn’t been an elected Democrat at the town level since Mary Pasquarell was town clerk in the 1980s.
“I think the voters of Malta were really willing to cross party lines to vote for change,” Young said.
Young, 56, a self-employed bookkeeper, also ran against Sausville two years ago and lost by just 57 votes. If she is elected, she said, she will work full-time as supervisor, a position with a $30,902 annual salary.
Councilman Peter Klotz, who had the Conservative ballot line despite not campaigning, received 408 votes. Some observers believe he took more votes away from Sausville than from Young.
Klotz stopped campaigning after losing a September Republican primary to Sausville. He didn’t endorse either of the others, but on Wednesday indicated he would be OK with Young winning.
“Cynthia ran a positive campaign, and people responded to that,” he said. “I wouldn’t have run if I was comfortable with the status quo.”
Sausville, in turn, said he is optimistic the absentee votes will break in his direction, giving him a narrow victory.
“It looks like it’s going to boil down to four or five votes,” he said. “It’s going to be a photo finish.”
Sausville said the divisiveness of the primary with Klotz may have been a factor in how people voted Tuesday, and he acknowledged strategic errors — like not filing the necessary paperwork to secure the Independence Party ballot line.
“At the end of the day, it’s a democratic process and the voters of Malta make the decision,” the 73-year-old said. “If they want me, I’ll serve another two years. If not, I have a very full life with other activities.”
A big issue in the campaign was the town’s approach to new development and how the town’s downtown should evolve.
Since he was elected eight years ago, Sausville has steadfastly fought efforts to establish a high-density downtown, despite support for it from the rest of the Town Board. He has been outvoted 4-1 on several occasions in downtown development issues.
In recent months, he has also had conflicts with other county leaders, who are concerned that no other businesses have come into the Luther Forest Technology Campus since GlobalFoundries located there in 2009. The lack of activity has driven the private nonprofit corporation that owns the campus to insolvency.
Economic development officials say a town law prohibiting tax breaks to lure new businesses to the land needs to be changed, but Sausville has refused to consider it — even while asking the county to take over 5.5 miles of internal roads at the campus that the town currently owns.
Young has said she’s open to discussing tax incentives. Officials in Stillwater, which has part of the tech campus, said they want to offer tax breaks if Malta initiates the change.
County supervisors, meanwhile, haven’t yet discussed what to do if Sausville — who is in line to be board chairman in 2014 — is defeated.
Elsewhere on the Malta ballot, Town Clerk Flo Sickels was re-elected despite an ethics committee report last week that recommended she be censured for conducting political activity in her town office. She received 1,823 votes and her Democratic opponent, Amanda Sovern, got 1,529, even though Sovern didn’t actively campaign until after the ethics report came out.
Incumbent Republican Town Board members John Hartzell and Maggi Ruisi defeated Democrat Carol Henry.