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Recount Friday: Boca Raton council race separated by only 19 votes


Update: The supervisor of elections reports that, as of 6 p.m., Andy Thomson holds a 19-vote lead over Kathy Cottrell.

Boca Raton residents will have to wait until Friday for a recount in a close race for a swing seat on the city council.

Andy Thomson leads Kathy Cottrell in the City Council Seat A race by just 19 votes, according to unofficial results from the Palm Beach County elections supervisor. The narrow lead is within the margin needed to trigger an automatic recount, which Boca Raton officials say will happen Friday.

“I’m just waiting to see the process play its course,” said Cottrell, a retired corporate consultant who ran on a low-growth platform. “The results will be the results.”

Thomson’s political consultant, Rick Asnani, said despite the narrow lead, the race is too close to call.

“We’re waiting for all the votes to be counted,” Asnani said on behalf of Thomson, who could not be reached Wednesday. “We’re hoping to maintain a lead, of course, but we want every vote to count.”

While the margin in the race was slim, there were 757 fewer ballots cast in the council race than in the race for the Boca Raton mayor on Tuesday. Scott Singer won that race by a wide margin over opponent Al Zucaro.

The difference, 4 percent of the total, suggests a few council votes possibly weren’t counted, said Asnani, a longtime local political operative.

“It’s quite a difference,” he said. A drop-off between a big-ticket race, like a mayoral race, and lower ballot contests is typical, but more votes could be captured when those 700-plus ballots are recounted.

If the margin is less than one-quarter of a percent, which a 19-vote difference is within, state law calls for a manual recount. That means the elections supervisor will machine count all ballots cast in the election for a second time. The supervisor’s office will then hand count undervotes — ballots with fewer votes than allowed, or ballots that register as having skipped a race.

Cottrell held a 35-vote lead until around midnight Tuesday, when additional mail ballots were counted and Thomson pulled ahead.

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In the three-way contest, Thomson and Cottrell both received 44 percent of the vote. Actor Tamara McKee got 12 percent.

None of the candidates in the special election — triggered by former Mayor Susan Haynie’s abrupt ouster from office — were incumbents.

The race — and the narrow margin — captures an apparent power struggle in Boca Raton. Cottrell aligns closely with residents who oppose dense development, including two-time mayoral candidate Zucaro.

Cottrell was backed by Councilwomen Monica Mayotte and Andrea O’Rourke, who beat Thomson in a 2017 council race. Both councilwomen were at Cottrell’s election night party Tuesday, when she delivered an acceptance speech only to then lose her slight lead.

Meanwhile, Councilman Jeremy Rodgers was at Singer and Thomson’s separate election night events.

With Singer taking the city’s top spot, the fifth council seat could swing the board toward low-growth goals.

Even more surprising: A race decided by a handful of votes isn’t new to Boca Raton. A 2001 council race with a two-vote margin triggered an eight-hour manual recount. The recount didn’t alter the difference, and Councilman Dave Freudenberg accepted his two-vote victory over Susan Saxton, now the city’s clerk, five days after the election.



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