By Charles Sercombe
Election Day always has an air of excitement. Tuesday’s election was absolutely electric.
Here are a few observations of this historical day:
Normally, a Primary Election draws at most 1,500 or so voters. Not this one. Over 2,400 voters participated, possibly the largest number in decades. In the council race, the highest vote-getter was newcomer Kazi Miah, who won a whopping 1,152 votes. Runner-ups were Mohammed Hassan with 900 votes and Anam Miah with 772.
Former mayor Tom Jankowski was next with 715, followed by incumbent Al Shulgon (543 votes) and in last place, Kathy Kristy (535).
The six candidates face-off in the Nov. 3 General Election. Voters will vote for no more than three candidates in that election. The winners will serve a four-year term.
Also on the ballot was a proposal asking voters to change a City Charter requirement for the hiring of a city manager. Voters overwhelmingly supported requiring a city manager to have at least three years experience to qualify for the position.
What’s the back story on this?
City officials feared that unless the experience requirement wasn’t made a permanent requirement, sometime down the road elected officials will hire an inexperienced city manager – a friend, or crony, in other words.
Mayor Karen Majewski thought she had a deal with Councilmember Cathie Gordon. The two don’t usually see eye-to-eye on many things. When Gordon drove up to the Senior Plaza Tuesday afternoon, in the front of her dash was campaign sign for Robert Zwolak, who was running for mayor.
When the sign was pointed out to Gordon, she said, “What sign?” She then said, with a straight face, Zwolak must have put it on the dash when she stepped away from her van.
“Cathie, that’s not what you said on Monday,” Majewski said with a shrug.
Also at the Senior Plaza at about 6 p.m., a 10-car caravan of Akm Rahman supporters pulled in, honking their horns. They lined up for a while and then proceeded to the next polling place.
Later that night, Rahman’s brother, Asm, said they did that to drum up some excitement and have some fun. It stopped as soon as a patrol car started following them, he said.
Rahman also noted that the Bangladeshi community is “maturing politically.” Judging by the election results, the community is past maturation.
As for mayoral hopeful Akm Rahman, you can add him to the long list of candidates who think the number of signs they hang translates into votes. To say the least, signs can be very deceiving. Rahman came in a distant third with 524 votes. Rahman, by the way, had one of the biggest war chests with over $6,000 – according to pre-election finance reports.
He didn’t get very much bang for the buck. That translates into a little more than $11 per vote – that is if he spent all his money.
Candidates take note: it’s not the number of signs you hang up. It’s the number of actual supporters who will go to the polls and vote. And here’s another lesson: people may agree to display your sign on their lawn or porch, but that doesn’t guarantee they’ll vote for you – no matter what they say.
Prior to Tuesday, a rush of sorts came from Bangladeshi voters. They came to City Hall to “vote early.” City Clerk Ed Norris had to explain to them that there was no such thing as early voting. However, he pointed out, they could vote absentee, which is, well yeah, a way to cast your vote early.
To everyone’s pleasant surprise, Tuesday was a peaceful day. In past elections, candidates or their supporters sometimes squared off with rivals, resulting in heated words and sometimes a few punches being thrown. Considering how large the turnout was, that’s a minor miracle.
When election results were handed out, an excited council candidate, Mohammed Hassan, shouted: “We got it! We got it!” He was the second-highest vote getter, garnering 900 votes.
A large number of Bengali supporters were on hand when election results came out. The Bengali community had plenty to be happy about. Their council candidates all came out on top. A chant erupted: “Bengali, Bengali, Bengali.”
Mayoral candidate Abdul Algazali took a handout of the election results from City Manager Bill Cooper, glanced down at the sheet, and apparently was too overcome with excitement and asked him: “Did I win?” Copper explained to him that he placed second and would square-off with Mayor Majewski in November.