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No winners yet in District 4

The votes are in, but the residents of Duluth's Fourth Council District may not know who won for a while. Tuesday night, the elements in the district race looked eerily similar to those from the general election in Florida a year ago -- a candida...

The votes are in, but the residents of Duluth's Fourth Council District may not know who won for a while.
Tuesday night, the elements in the district race looked eerily similar to those from the general election in Florida a year ago -- a candidate winning by a tiny margin, rumors of malfunctioning machines flying, talk of a media outlet calling the wrong winner and a flurry of interest in the arcane process of a recount.
Most similar was the lack of any concession speech.
All that was really known was the unofficial vote tally -- 2,959 votes for Neill Atkins and 2,929 for Roger Reinert, a difference of 30 votes, or about half a percent. The tally also included 26 write-in votes.
But by Wednesday afternoon, things were more in focus, and Reinert was downplaying the Florida comparison.
When asked about the rumored machine malfunctions Wednesday -- rumors the Budgeteer News has not confirmed -- Reinert said some of the people in his campaign had heard about them but that he wasn't concerned and didn't consider it an issue.
"We're Minnesota, not Florida," he said.
Also more clear Wednesday was the recount process. City Clerk Jeff Cox said Wednesday that such situations fall under state election laws. Before anything can happen, the City Council must certify the results of the election, a process expected to take place Tuesday. After that, either candidate has a week to request a recount.
Guidelines on how recount costs are distributed are also established by the state. In the case of District 4, unofficial results indicate the race is close enough that the recount would be done at public expense, rather than paid by the requesting candidate. In the early post-election hours Tuesday, two council winners, Greg Gilbert and Herb Bergson, had talked of helping to fund the recount if the cost were placed on Reinert.
Reinert is still not conceding anything, but he had not decided whether or not he would initiate a recount after the vote is certified. He does not plan to announce a decision until after the council certifies the results next week.
Balanced in his thought process, he said, are the closeness of the vote on one hand and concerns that the recount would put extra burden on the city clerk's office on the other. He said he only wanted a recount if it would be valuable to the process.
"If it ends up that I don't win, that's OK," he said, saying he had met his campaign goals.
"... Win or lose, my goal was always to be able to walk away feeling good about the campaign, good about myself."
Reinert, crediting his seven-person staff, said he was pleased to have done so well in his first campaign and proud of its positive tone.
Atkins, who gathered with supporters at Stadium Lanes Tuesday night, said he kept hearing he was 28 to 30 votes ahead, but that one media outlet had erroneously called Reinert the winner.
Atkins shrugged Tuesday night at the idea of a recount, based on his past election experience. "Normally there's a couple three votes here or there that are questioned," he said.
"... Well, we'll see what happens."
Atkins said his full-time job had hampered his campaign but said his group had "campaigned hard."
"That's the tough thing about a City Council race," he said. "This is not a full-time position."
On the closeness of the race, Atkins said, "Obviously, it's tough to call why people vote the way they do."
He said the referendums may have clouded things, particularly the divisive smoking ordinance, which he continues to strongly oppose. Although he reiterated his promise to abide by the referendum, he hedged a bit, saying the issue could be brought up by the public again if many businesses start failing.
If the vote should be reversed and Atkins loses, he said he would likely not run again.
"A year ago, I never thought I'd run for the City Council again," he said, noting that people concerned with a "negative image" on economic development had asked him to run.
Reinert vowed to stay involved in the community regardless of the outcome and said he was happy his message had come across.

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