December 7, 2007 - Osby Davis wins recount
Paper: Times-Herald (Vallejo, CA)
Title: Osby Davis wins recount
Date: December 7, 2007
In another twist to Vallejo's historically close mayoral race, Osby Davis won the contested battle Thursday with three votes - less than two days after Gary Cloutier had been sworn in to the city's top political seat.
The four-day recount resulted in a loss of eight votes for Cloutier. On Monday, he had been ahead by five.
The final vote tally gave Davis 5,718 votes and Cloutier 5,715. The new tally came exactly one month after voters went to the polls.
Davis is expected to take the oath of office Tuesday, shortly after the City Council certifies the new election results. City Attorney Fred Soley said there's no precedent for this situation, but it appears Cloutier will remain mayor until then.
"It's awesome, unbelievable, and I'm really excited," Davis said, shortly after learning he had won.
Cloutier said Thursday night that he and his campaign officials will evaluate their options over the next several days, including a legal challenge. County officials said the next effort to overturn the results would have to occur in court.
"This has been an unusual election in an unusual time for Vallejo," Cloutier said. "I believe the extreme closeness of the election and the recount results warrant very close scrutiny. At this time, we are in the process of exploring our options and we expect to make a determination in the next few days whether a challenge is appropriate."
Solano County election officials said the new results can be traced to vote changes from six challenged ballots, and two ballots counted twice by election machines. Registrar of Voters Ira Rosenthal attributed Cloutier's eight-vote loss to "mechanical error" in the counting machines.
Rosenthal added he was surprised that the recount overturned Cloutier's previous lead. Previously, Assistant Registrar of Voters Lindsey McWilliams said he had never had a recount change the outcome.
"We went through every ballot to make sure they were counted," Rosenthal said. Observers from all four mayoral candidates participated in the manual recount in which 12 election workers counted, by hand, all 19,733 ballots.
The manual ballot tally resulted in 10 fewer valid ballots than the machine count, Rosenthal said. He attributed the discrepancy to ballot misfeeds.
McWilliams said there were 61 challenged ballots, which he and Rosenthal reviewed and reached a consensus on what the vote should be.
Davis spent $8,490 on the recount, but will be reimbursed his costs since the outcome was in his favor.
Manual recounts are "always likely to show some difference in voting results because human observers can make judgments about voters' intent that electronic counting machines cannot," Rosenthal said in a prepared statement.
Davis, a private attorney and former county supervisor, will become Vallejo's first African American mayor. He will succeed two-term mayor Tony Intintoli Jr., who left office due to term limits.
Cloutier, meanwhile, had received statewide attention the past couple days as the first openly gay mayor in the Bay Area. Controversy over his Nov. 18 public intoxication arrest in Palm Springs also made recent headlines.
Thursday's recount results cap a month of surprises in the mayor race. First came a tie on election night. Then Davis was briefly ahead by one vote. Then he fell behind Cloutier by as many as 52 votes and as few as five after more absentee and provisional ballots were counted.
Davis asked for a recount Nov. 29, when county-certified results Nov. 24 gave Cloutier the five-vote edge.
But doubt and uncertainty over the election results were not evident Thursday afternoon as a joyous throng of supporters greeted Davis before he conducted a press conference. He kissed and hugged numerous supporters, and smiled, waved signs and cheered.
"I want, first and foremost, to give praise, honor and glory to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ," Davis said. "This campaign was never about me and it never has been. It is about the things my God wishes me do in this wonderful city of Vallejo."
Surrounded by family members, Davis said Cloutier had not mentioned a legal challenge when both candidates were informed Thursday afternoon of the recount results. He said Cloutier congratulated him in a phone call.
Davis said he is "not concerned" about a legal challenge, and added he has never wavered in his belief he would be mayor. He also pledged to help unify people, and would work hard to face the city's many difficult challenges, such as the budget deficit, rising public safety costs and improving schools.
"We have confidence and we are excited about the opportunity to serve the community," Davis said. He added he would work hard with the citizens and city staff and that Vallejoans would see improvements in a year. As a leader, he said he would strive to bring people together.
Davis also praised Cloutier for his professionalism during the campaign and vote challenge. Likewise, Cloutier thanked Davis for the "courteous conduct he has shown during the election and the recount."
Newly elected Councilwoman Joanne Schivley said that she expects a possible legal challenge by Cloutier on the recount results. She said in his position, she would do the same thing.
The uncertainty of this whole situation would likely inhibit the new council from moving quickly forward, Schivley said.
Councilman Tom Bartee said "both Gary and Osby are talented and qualified candidates. I was satisfied with either one, regardless of results. I believe that Osby, like the rest of us, is dedicated to do what he thinks is best. I think he'll be a good mayor."
Newly elected council member Michael Wilson said, "I am happy to work with either one of them as mayor," adding that he is looking forward to figuring out "everything Osby has to bring to the council."
The council's other new member, Erin Hannigan, said she was not surprised by the outcome. "He's the best choice for Vallejo," she said of Davis, "I think the voters have spoken and weren't heard until the recount."
Cloutier supporter Mike Haworth expressed shock at the results. "It makes you wonder how accurate the count is," Haworth said.
Echoing a sentiment offered numerous times throughout the campaign, Haworth said a city charter change is needed to require a run-off election if a mayoral candidate does not receive more than 50 percent of the vote. Davis, though the winner, received just under 29 percent in the four-way race.
Times-Herald staff writers J.M. Brown, Andrea Wolf, Sara Stroud and City Editor Mary Leahy contributed to this report.
Author: SARAH ROHRS/Times-Herald staff writer
(c) 2007 Times-Herald. All rights reserved.