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Stanley Mazaleski had requested in writing a recount of election results

Chris Patterson

The candidate who received the lowest number of votes has requested a recount of the results of Tuesday's election for two slots on the Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners.

Candidates Bill O'Neil and Dianne Walbrecker won the seats, earning the most votes in the election with one of the highest participation rates in recent memory.

On Wednesday, candidate Stanley Mazaleski had requested in writing a recount of the final results, Mayor Jim Hoover said. Mazaleski landed fifth in the race, with 109 votes.

O'Neil received 201 votes and Walbrecker received 181 votes. Close on Walbrecker's heels were Harold Craig with 179 votes and Commissioner Clifford Sweeney with 174 votes.

Of the 1,102 registered voters in town, 437 ballots were accepted.

Hoover and town clerk Donna Despres did not know if any ballots were deemed invalid. All of the ballots have been locked in a box until the town hears from an attorney about how to proceed with Mazaleski's request, Hoover said.

Waiting for results

Braving dropping temperatures and heavy winds, candidates, supporters, media representatives and curious residents huddled in front of the former town hall as the night wore on, impatiently waiting for the results to be posted.

Some candidates, such as winners O'Neil and Walbrecker, waited for news at the Ott House Restaurant.

Earlier in the evening, Walbrecker, who had been visiting a sick family member in Virginia all day, said having someone she loves be so ill reminded her of how many more important things were going on than whether she won the election or not.

"Is [the election] important? Yes, but it's not the end of the world one way or the other," she said.

At about 10:30 p.m., a crowd of O'Neil and Craig supporters cheered when it appeared O'Neil, at least, would make the cut. O'Neil said earlier he had a good feeling about the campaign because residents were polite when he was out campaigning.

Taking an ugly turn

But events during the campaign were not always polite.

Candidates complained about stolen signs or that other candidates' signs were placed in their yards without permission. And there was further debate about the large banners displayed in town by O'Neil and Craig, and about Sweeney's signs being posted on utility poles.

Passionate letters to the editor, both for and against various candidates, were printed in The Gazette in recent weeks.

And residents have complained about the bitterness of the fight, and the threats of lawsuits against Sweeney by Craig and O'Neil for a campaign ad Sweeney placed in The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Candidates Craig and O'Neil argued the advertisement made false statements and they demanded a retraction and equal space in that newspaper.

During the campaign, Sweeney levied numerous accusations at the activist group Citizens Organized to Preserve Emmitsburg (COPE) and its members.

O'Neil, president of COPE, and Craig, vice president, were both subjects of sometimes scalding attacks.

After the election results were announced, O'Neil resigned as the president of COPE during an executive session that night, Craig said Wednesday. Craig will assume responsibilities as president; Forrence was elected vice president, he said.

Hoover said Forrence had requested information about how to request a recount, but Craig said he is not interested in a recount.

Sweeney and Mazaleski could not be reached for comment by press time.

The animosity between COPE and some of the former and sitting board members began nearly two years ago due to the annexation of a 67-acre parcel known as Silver Fancy Farm.

Board president Patrick Boyle's family owned the property, and so he recused himself from voting. Boyle decided not to run for office again in this election.

During the final vote to approve the annexation, Sweeney and then-commissioner Ted Brennan voted 2-1 to approve it, despite vocal opposition by the burgeoning organization COPE. Commissioner Joyce Rosensteel voted against it.

In the 2003 election, COPE member Art Elder defeated Brennan and the annexation was voted down.

Elder earned 275 votes in that election out of 459 cast, with a participation rate of 39 percent of the registered voters at that time. Brennan earned less than half that number of votes.

The results of this most recent contest were much closer, with a difference of only seven votes separating Sweeney from Walbrecker's second-place finish.

A Frederick County Sheriff's deputy sat with election judges Carol Pavek, Katie Wharthen and Rita Byard as they counted and re-counted the votes carefully, the deputy said following the announcement.

Moving on

When the votes were posted, Walbrecker stared at the sign in apparent disbelief before falling back into her fiancé's arms, pretending to faint as they laughed.

At the Ott House moments later, Walbrecker and O'Neil shook hands amidst a crowd of well-wishers.

"We can do it, right?" she asked O'Neil, who returned her handshake with a strong verbal affirmation. "Yes, Yes," he agreed.

But whether or not those two will be the final candidates remains to be seen and may depend on the results of a recount, if one is done.

The winning candidates are slated to be sworn-in during the town meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the new town hall, 300A S. Seton Ave.

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