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Candidates stay tied after hand recount

A machine recount and one by hand both end in 369-369 ties, leaving luck to decide a winner.

By MATTHEW WAITE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 19, 2001


DADE CITY -- The winner of the remaining open seat on the Port Richey City Council will certainly have one thing going for him.

Luck.

The ballots were counted again Wednesday morning, more than a week after voters went to the polls, and Bill Bennett and Dale Massad again ended in a tie.

The vote was certified by the Pasco County Canvassing Board after the hand recount, setting up a situation no one can remember happening in Pasco recently: drawing lots to resolve an election. A coin flip, drawn straws or a name from a hat will decide who Port Richey's fifth council member will be.

City Clerk Shirley Dresch said the city hasn't decided how it is going to do it, but most likely, the random winner will be decided on Tuesday at the start of the City Council meeting.

"I'm going to practice drawing straws or flipping coins," Bennett joked after the results were announced.

"We're in sudden death overtime now," Massad said.

The results were the same as they were after an automatic recount was done on election night April 10, after Massad seemingly won by one vote. After that recount, Bennett gained a vote, leaving them locked at 369 votes apiece.

The hand recount took an hour, and 45 minutes into it, a break for Massad appeared: a ballot with a half-hanging chad. The Canvassing Board voted unanimously that it was a vote for Massad.

When the numbers were tallied, though, they came up the same: tied at 369 votes.

"I go from winning by a vote to a tie, and we pick up a chad and we're still tied," Massad said. "It's strange, but it's the way it works."

Supervisor of Elections Kurt Browning said he couldn't remember an election in Pasco that ended in a tie.

Around Florida, coin tosses have broken ties in at least two elections recently. A tie for a seat on the Town Council in Monteverde, a town of 700 in Lake County, was broken by a flip of the mayor's half dollar in January 1999. And an October 1998 primary in Bronson, in Gilchrist County, also was decided by a flip of the coin.

Not surprisingly, heads decided the first, tails the second.

And after a bizarre campaign -- one during which a grand jury was convened to investigate a candidate for mayor -- Mayor Eloise Taylor said she isn't surprised the recount in Port Richey ended in a tie.

"No, in this election I expect anything to happen," she said. "It would be hard to be surprised by anything in this election."

- Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

-- Matthew Waite can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is waite@sptimes.com.

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