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DISTRICT 8 // Lasita, Biggerstaff lead packed field

Fewer than 1,600 voters pushed John "Jay" Lasita and Jimmy Joe Biggerstaff above the crowded fray Tuesday as the candidates to replace defeated mayoral candidate Leslie Curran on the City Council.

So many candidates _ six _ turned out for the race and vote totals were so close that elections officials were ready to conduct a re-count of the ballots Tuesday night, then stopped short.

In the end, Lasita finished with just under a quarter of the votes cast while Biggerstaff took just under 20 percent of the final vote.

"This was a victory for the neighborhoods," Biggerstaff said of the results. "The neighborhoods have got to have a larger vote on the council, and that's what I campaigned on."

Lasita, 45, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night, but at least one of the defeated candidates was already set to throw her support his way.

"I'm going to be backing him big time, and I already told Jay that," said Lorraine Compton, who was at City Hall watching the results roll in. "If it isn't going to be me, then it will be him."

The campaign strategy that seemed to work the best in the crowded race was to find some way to get noticed at the most local level, the neighborhoods.

Biggerstaff, 56, has worked for the past several years within the Disston Heights Neighborhood Association, the biggest single neighborhood group in the city at roughly 7,000 homes. He has been president for the last two years and has used his time to walk residential streets and campaign door to door.

Biggerstaff also dotted the neighborhoods with his homemade-looking yard signs, which gave his campaign a grass-roots look.

At the same time, Biggerstaff overhauled his name from "Jim Biggerstaff," as he is known to most acquaintances, to "Jimmy Joe Biggerstaff," as his name appeared on Tuesday's ballot.

All that effort at folksiness worked well enough to get Biggerstaff into the March 25 general election.

Lasita used his political experience in the campaigns of others to boost his candidacy. His yard signs mushroomed across the district in the last couple of weeks of the campaign.

Biggerstaff led for most of the race until the end. He noted later, though, that the last precinct to report in the district was Lasita's, where results for him were strong enough to push Biggerstaff out of the top spot.

As for the general election, "I'm going to be doing the same thing," Biggerstaff said. "I'm a neighborhood candidate, and that's going to be the thrust of this campaign. I'll be going throughout the city to the association presidents and ask them for their support."