Three recounts needed in fire district race
By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 9, 2000
CLEARWATER -- The presidential election race wasn't the only contest that hinged on the outcome of a recount Wednesday. In Pinellas County, Tuesday's apparent winner for a seat on the Pinellas Suncoast Fire District board of commissioners found out that she actually lost.
The first ballot count Tuesday night showed Janet Hoppe beating her political rival, Robert McEwen, by exactly one vote, 429 to 428.
Both candidates were surprised by the closeness of the race and said they would wait for a mandatory recount before fully celebrating.
It was good that they waited.
Wednesday, amid a more massive recount of presidential ballots, election officials conducted not one recount of the fire board election, but three -- with the last by hand.
The machine recounts showed Hoppe gaining one vote and McEwen gaining two votes. The final hand count, however, added another four votes to McEwen's total, giving him a clear win in the fire board Seat 1 race with the final total 434 votes for McEwen and 430 votes for Hoppe.
Joan Brock, deputy supervisor of elections, said the election counting machines missed first three and then an additional four votes because voters had failed to fully punch out the holes in their ballots.
"It's been quite an election. We're going to be in the history books," she said, referring to the daylong countywide recount of the intensely fought presidential race.
Hoppe and McEwen also fought a tough and sometimes acrimonious race. The two candidates ran against each other three times before for mayor of Indian Shores. Hoppe, 69, won her race for mayor in 1988, but lost to to McEwen, 71, in 1990 and again in 1998. McEwen recently retired as Indian Shores mayor. The fire district's board members serve four-year terms and are paid $150 a month.
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From the Times election desk
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