NEWBURYPORT — Incumbents carried the day during a pair of election recounts Tuesday as Ward 2 City Councilor Jennie Donahue and Ward 5 Councilor Jim McCauley retained their seats with the same number of votes they garnered on Election Day.
Running for her second, two-year term, Donahue picked up 397 votes during the Nov. 7. municipal election. Her challenger, High Street resident Stephanie Niketic, earned 385 votes. With only 12 votes separating the two, Niketic quickly took out paperwork from the city clerk’s office for a recount.
Ward 2 began shortly after 9 a.m. and lasted about two hours with City Clerk Richard Jones announcing the final numbers to a hushed crowd around 10:45 a.m.
After hearing the good news, Donahue spoke to a group of supporters, including former Mayors Donna Holaday and Lisa Mead and School Committee member Bruce Menin, and thanked Niketic for providing an opportunity for residents to experience democracy at its fullest.
“I know at least some of my volunteers are pretty excited to participate in this type of action,” she said. “Thank you all so much for being here and, yay!”
Donahue told The Daily News afterward she was confident democracy would run its course.
“I’m glad we had such great volunteers and I think this was a really good exercise for everybody,” she said. “I’m excited and I’m relieved. And I’m glad to get back to work.”
Niketic said she was glad her campaign was given a chance to take another look at the ballots.
“I feel good that we know, for sure,” she said. “That’s the way it’s supposed to work.”
Niketic was running in her first campaign and said it was too soon to say whether she will run for office again.
“I just don’t know yet,” she said.
The Ward 5 recount, which featured a margin of only three votes, started after lunch and took roughly the same amount of time.
McCauley took home 358 votes on Nov. 7, while Storey Avenue resident Owen Smith garnered 355. With only three votes separating his race, Smith also petitioned for a recount and like Ward 2, the results did not move a vote either way. “I want to thank everyone who came today, on both sides,” McCauley said. Smith also said he appreciated all of the volunteers who came out for the recount and everyone who voted. “I think we basically proved our election process works,” he said. Asked if he would run again, Smith said he certainly could see himself making another stab. “Two years can go by pretty quick,” he said. “I like local politics and local government and I don’t have aspirations to run for any other office, other than as a city councilor.”Estimated to cost between $5,000 and $6,000, the recounts were held in the second-floor City Hall auditorium. Candidates and their lawyers, along with campaign supporters, were allowed inside a cordoned-off section where they commingled with election officials. Outside the pen, there were two rows of seats made available to the public so they could watch the proceedings.Among those keeping a close eye on the process was local resident Jane Snow, a familiar face at City Council and other municipal meetings. While talking was kept to a minimum the sound of people walking over the unforgiving floor created a regular din. When it appeared an announcement was imminent regarding the Ward 2 race, those in the audience left their seats and walked up to the yellow makeshift barrier to make sure their ears picked up Jones’ announcement. Observers for each of the candidates were also able to physically check the work of the vote counters and the Board of Registrars as the recount went on and the mood in the room remained cordial throughout.
City Clerk Richard Jones said town clerks from Salisbury, Merrimac, Newbury and Lynnfield assisted in Tuesday’s recount and he thanked the Board of Registrars, as well as his staff for all their hard work.
“Things worked out beautifully,” he said. “The recounts were generally without issue and everything went smooth. I’m also extremely thankful to all the people who volunteered.”