The voting is over, but the counting isn’t, and the answer of who will be the next mayor of Bradford hangs in the balance.
The race currently appears to favor write-in candidate James A. McDonald, as 47 more write-in votes were cast than incumbent mayor Tom Riel received. However, as of yet, it isn’t clear who the votes were cast for. McKean County Elections Director Lisa Pratt said the write-in votes will be finalized no sooner than Friday, and the results posted to the county’s website.
McDonald told The Era, “As a write-in candidate, I knew that the odds of winning my race were not favorable. The process isn’t over yet, though. There is a ton of sorting, tallying and figuring to be done before this nailbiter of a race is settled.”
He’s right. There are absentee ballots yet to be counted, and the write-in votes have to be read and counted.
“If I am fortunate enough to claim victory at the end of this process I give the glory to God,” McDonald said. “From the beginning of this race, my prayer has been to be able to find the right words at the right time.
“I am being cautiously optimistic at this point, but things are looking pretty good,” he said.
As for Riel, it isn’t over until it’s over.
He said, “I’m not admitting defeat yet. There are 30 absentee ballots that have not been counted.
“I’m certainly not conceding,” he said. “There were over 1,200 votes cast. Anytime there’s that many write-ins, there’s not only mistakes,” but there are also votes for other people, and some jokes like Mickey Mouse or Eeyore.
“We know it’s a long shot, but it is a possibility,” Riel said. “If on Friday it’s deemed impossible to cover the vote difference, we will deal with it then.”
Riel said a lot of voters didn’t go out to the polls because of the poor weather, and there were a lot of new voters, too.
“We know a lot of the landlords made an effort to try to get their tenants registered to vote,” he said, “and they used fear tactics like if Tom Riel is elected their rent is going up.”
Riel reiterated, “If it’s impossible to overcome, then we will go from there.”
Meanwhile, he said, the city is in the middle of budget season and there is a lot of work to be done.
McDonald said he was impressed at the voter turnout, calling it “incredible.” He thanked his wife and children for being his biggest supporters, and lauded the work his wife, Alishia, put into his campaign.
“My supporters are loyal and second to none,” he said. “My volunteers were absolute rockstars.
“And I just want it to be know that if I am blessed enough to be named Bradford’s mayor, I want to represent everyone, and not just those who helped or voted for me. We all live here together.”