It was the winner who cried. Incoming City Commissioner Joe Casello wiped tears off his cheeks. After an election, a runoff and, Wednesday, a recount, he had finally won a squeaker of an election, by three votes.
“It was an emotional roller coaster,” he said. “The election, the runoff, the recount. You can only go up and down so many times.”
Casello, 61, defeated Cory Kravit, 32, as certified by the recount Wednesday afternoon.
City Clerk Janet Prainito says this is the first recount since she began working for the city in 1991.
Kravit held a slight lead in the March 12 election, but did not collect the necessary 35 percent of the votes. That triggered Tuesday’s runoff. By about 9 p.m. Tuesday Casello, a retired firefighter and electrical contractor, led. But he had less than the required 0.5 percent margin, so state statutes require a machine recount.
The two candidates, looking tired and nervous, showed up at the Riviera Beach service center of the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections just before noon Wednesday. The supervisor herself, Susan Bucher, turned on the air conditioner in the service center, a sprawling warehouse lined with tall shelves.
Eight elections employees, working in pairs, fed the 613 Boynton Beach ballots through four machines.
But in what has become almost a tradition in Palm Beach County since the disputed 2000 presidential election, there was a glitch. Ten votes were missing, a significant number in a runoff where only 613 people voted. Candidates and officials sat on folding chairs for about an hour, chatting or checking their phones.
“The last time I felt this nervous I was going down the aisle to get married,” said Casello, who paced.
At 1:25 p.m, heads swiveled toward the sound of a bay door rolling up in the rear of the service center. With a television camera trained on the arriving truck as if it were King Tut’s tomb, five large tan metal boxes were rolled into the warehouse. The missing votes were indeed there, just placed in the wrong lockbox.
The last few votes fed through the voting machine in a blur. And then it was over. The recount was identical to Tuesday night’s runoff: 308 to 305. Bucher apologized for the mix-up. Candidates received hugs from their supporters and everyone dispersed.
Casello said his priorities are “to bring that crime rate down even lower, work on economic development and tell the business world that Boynton Beach is open and ready for business. And like my slogan, ‘Leadership through integrity.’ We do have a good city commission and now we are going to heal.”
“It just goes to show that every vote makes a difference,” said Kravit. “It’s a good thing if it will encourage higher turnout. I won (the March 12 election) by 12 votes.”
The two candidates were vying for the District 4 seat vacated by Marlene Ross, who resigned in December. Her term is being completed by former city spokesman Wayne Segal.
Because Ross’ term would have run through 2014, Casello will serve for only one year before his seat is up for election again.
District 4 covers the northwest corner of the city, from Gateway Boulevard to Hypoluxo Road and from Interstate 95 to the city limits on the west.