NEW PORT RICHEY — Lawyer Scott McPherson was a big winner in Tuesday's municipal election, capturing nearly 65 percent of the votes in the three-way mayoral race.
But the race for the City Council seat was much closer, with New Port Richey Main Street executive director Judy DeBella Thomas edging out medical consultant Glenn Hanff by nine votes, 402 to 393. Susan Clark trailed with 246.
After those results were posted Tuesday night, Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley said he got four late absentee ballots from New Port Richey. Three of those ballots went for Hanff and one for Thomas. But Thomas' percentage point lead over Hanff remained high enough that it did not trigger an automatic machine recount.
"It was a nail-biter," Corley said.
Thomas was visibly surprised when she saw the election results at City Hall on Tuesday.
"I'm floored," she said as her family and supporters rushed in to hug her. "Something resonated with voters, obviously."
McPherson called his victory "an honor." The mayoral race featured two former City Council members, Bob Langford, who had 25 percent of the vote, and Tom Finn, who pulled in about 11 percent.
"I look at my position of mayor as being a fiduciary duty between myself and the residents of New Port Richey," he said. "I'm honored they saw fit to elect me mayor."
Voter turnout was low, as it has typically been in New Port Richey in recent years, with fewer than 12 percent of registered voters turning out to the polls.
The newly elected council members replace incumbents Mayor Dan Tipton and Deputy Mayor Ginny Miller. Both stepped down to pursue higher-level offices: Tipton for clerk of the circuit court and Miller for County Commission.
As a cost-saving measure, the city for the first time consolidated its polling places into one, at the recreation and aquatics complex.
This presented a one-stop opportunity for county and state political candidates shopping for signatures to get on the ballots for the upcoming elections. More than a dozen candidates or their surrogates lined up on the sidewalk in front of the recreation complex, a presence that some of the city candidates campaigning at the polls said bothered not only them but also voters.
Finn said he'd seen voters drive away rather than deal with signature seekers. Thomas said she had seen some visibly upset voters.
"It just has created some confusion and angst," she said.
As long as the candidates were not within 100 feet of the polling place, they were within their rights, Corley said.
Sheri Goldberg, a volunteer with Pat Carroll's campaign for supervisor of elections, said things improved later in the day, when many of the candidates stopped bothering voters before they got inside the building.
"We don't bother them until they come out," she said.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.