Boca Raton: Thomson is council's new addition

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher (standing) watches as ballots are examined during the recount of the Boca Raton City Council Seat A election Aug. 31. There were 16 previously uncounted ballots. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Steve Plunkett and Dan Moffett

 And the winner is: Andy Thomson!

An agonizing 67 hours after the polls closed Aug. 28 and following almost six hours of recounting ballots by machine and by hand, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher declared that Thomson won Seat A on the City Council—by maybe 32 votes.

Complete results were delayed by her computer’s programming, but Thomson is “clearly the winner,” Bucher said before her software spit out the final results.

The almost-final tally was 7,929 votes for Thompson and 7,897 for Kathy Cottrell. Tamara McKee, the third candidate, had 2,133.

“I’m thrilled to be in this position,” Thomson said from Scotland, where he and his wife, Joanna, are celebrating an anniversary trip they planned long before the recount was ordered. “Nobody would have expected it would have come to this.”

Thomson, who campaigned on a message of “responsible, managed growth,” is expected to often side with Mayor Scott Singer, who touted a record “of opposing overdevelopment” in this election, and Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers, who attended both Singer's and Thomson's election night gatherings.

Thomson said his narrow victory showed him voters are split about the city’s future. “I look forward to working together to bridge this divide,” he said.

Council members Andrea O’Rourke and Monica Mayotte attended Cottrell’s election night watch. O’Rourke, who endorsed Cottrell early on, defeated Thomson in a sometimes-bitter campaign for Seat B in March 2017.

Bucher said the recount ensures that the totals are accurate and that Thomson won. “I don’t want to be 99 percent,” she said. “I want to be 100 percent accurate.”

Bucher’s staff, since Election Day, found a bin with 16 ballots that were overvotes or undervotes that were set aside but not counted. No one can say how this happened, but her office’s attorney says it was definitely a mistake.

“We should have done them Tuesday night,” said Andrew Baumann, Bucher’s attorney.

Thomson won nine of the 16 votes and Cottrell won three. McKee got one; the others were tossed out by the canvassing board, which included Bucher and Circuit Judges August Bonavita and Bradley Harper.

Cottrell and Thomson both received about 1,600 votes more than Al Zucaro did in the mayor’s race. Zucaro lost to Singer in a landslide, 63 percent to 33 percent. Zucaro's BocaWatch blog supported Cottrell, as it did O'Rourke and Mayotte before.

A 19-vote difference, 0.1 percent, triggered the hand count of 1,518 undervotes and overvotes, ballots without a choice or with two or more candidates chosen. Most were undervotes and had no impact on the race.

State law requires a hand count when the difference is 0.25 percent or less.

On election night Cottrell held a lead of more than 200 votes after early votes were counted and again when about two-thirds of the city's precincts were tallied.

Her lead narrowed to 37 votes by 10 p.m. Two hours later she and Thomson were tied. Mail-in and provisional ballots counted near midnight gave Thomson first a three-vote advantage, then pushed him ahead by 19.

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