ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Manual recounts are expected in several Elmira City Council races that are too close to call, as only a handful of votes could shift the council’s balance of power from a republican to a democratic majority. Only 18% of registered voters cast ballots in the City of Elmira.
The Chemung County Board of Elections says mail-in and other ballots are still being counted. Mail-in ballots have to be postmarked by election day on Nov. 7th but can arrive until Nov. 15th. The Board of Elections has until Dec. 15th to certify final results.
According to New York State law, automatic hand recounts are triggered when a race is separated by fewer than 20 votes or a difference of 0.5% or less. Three council races are currently separated by fewer than 20 ballots. In one race, the margin is just one vote. The Chemung County Republican Committee confirmed to 18 News it will seek recounts in three races.
Prior to the election, republicans held a 5-seat majority, including Mayor Dan Mandell, along with 1 democrat and 1 libertarian. If current results are certified, the balance of power will shift to a 4-3 democratic majority. 1st District councilman Nick Grasso switched his party affiliation from libertarian to democrat.
1st District incumbent Nick Grasso currently leads republican challenger Patrick Griffin by 19 votes. 282 to 263. Third candidate Elijah McGee has 62 votes.
In the second district, incumbent democrat Corey Cooke leads republican Charles Cerio by only 9 votes. 112 to 103.
In the fourth district, Reverend Gary Brinn, a democrat, is leading republican incumbent Mark Franchi by just one vote, 128 to 127. Rev. Brinn is the head pastor at the historic Park Church in Wisner Park.
“When they say every vote counts, Mr. Mayor, this is what they mean,” 18 News reporter Nick Dubina said to Mayor Mandell.
“Every vote does count,” Mayor Mandell replied. “That was a real tight race. Obviously, we will definitely be doing a hand count on that one, and again, to see if there are any absentees out there that will come back in. If the results hold, it will switch to a 4-3 democratic majority.”
In the 3rd District, republican incumbent Joseph Duffy was re-elected with 98% of the vote after running un-opposed. In the 5th district, democrat Jackie Wilson obtained 57% of the votes, defeating republican Marylin Paulo. Ms. Paulo garnered 41% of votes after running for a seat left vacant by republican Tory Kitching, who decided not to seek another term. Independent candidate Fidel Rivera obtained 12 votes or 3%.
In the 6th district, incumbent Nanette Moss won in a landslide, defeating libertarian Craig Colwell 61% to 25%. Independent candidate Kevin Sullivan obtained 14%.
“What does it mean for you if the City Council flips to the other side?” 18 News reporter Nick Dubina asked Mayor Mandell.
“Basically, what I’ve always said is that I remove the R’s and the D’s when it comes to local elections and local government. We have to do what’s best for the citizens of Elmira. All of the politics has to be taken out of it. We see what happens on the national and state level. So polarized, nothing gets done, there’s gridlock. We don’t need that in the City of Elmira. Being that I’m going to be the leader of this council, I can assure you that we will work together and get things done. That’s going to be the message to the new people coming on to the council, and the ones already on the council.”
Dan Mandell, who won re-election to a third term, is also the head of the City of Elmira Republican Committee. He also told 18 News there will be recounts in three city council races.
Even though Mayor Mandell won re-election by a wide margin, 59% to 41%, he admitted his victory was tighter than four years ago when he won in a landslide with more than 70% of the vote.
“Where you surprised by the performance of Jim Hassell? Was it a tighter margin than what you expected?” Dubina asked.
“I pretty much saw this is what the margin would be,” said Mayor Mandell. “He worked really hard, he knocked on a lot of doors, so that paid off for him. That’s why I think you see the tightening of the numbers in this election. Still substantial went on my part, but yeah, it was a little bit closer than some people expected but not what I expected. It’s about what I expected.”
You can view all elections results from the Chemung County Board of Elections here.
You can watch the full interview with Mayor Dan Mandell below: