After recount, Madeira Beach, Tarpon Springs commission races decided

Ray Kerr wins the District 2 Madeira Beach commission seat; Michael Eisner wins Tarpon Springs Commission Seat 3.
Charles "Chuck" Dillon, left, and Ray Kerr, candidates for Madeira Beach Commissioner District 2, shake hands after a recount in which Kerr emerged victorious by two votes.
Charles "Chuck" Dillon, left, and Ray Kerr, candidates for Madeira Beach Commissioner District 2, shake hands after a recount in which Kerr emerged victorious by two votes. [ Courtesy of Sue Kerr ]
Published March 18, 2022|Updated March 18, 2022

On Tuesday night, only one vote separated two candidates vying to be a Madeira Beach commissioner.

But after a recount Friday at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office, the margin of victory in the District 2 race was widened to two votes — and flipped the win to 62-year-old business owner Ray Kerr.

“I’ve been living the dream upside down the past few days,” Kerr said Friday after final vote totals put him ahead of competitor Charles “Chuck” Dillon.

Two races in Tuesday’s Pinellas municipal elections were confirmed Friday by recounts after slim margins between candidates.

In Tarpon Springs, the candidates for Commission Seat 3, Michael Eisner and George Koulianos, were separated by 10 votes as of Tuesday night. After a recount, Eisner held his lead and defeated Koulianos by nine votes.

Tuesday’s municipal elections across Pinellas County took place in Belleair, Belleair Beach, Belleair Bluffs, Clearwater, Madeira Beach, Oldsmar, Redington Beach, Redington Shores, St. Pete Beach and Tarpon Springs.

About 33,800 voters cast ballots, a 28 percent turnout for registered voters in the area.

Related: Election results: Clearwater, Tarpon Springs, Oldsmar and more Pinellas races

Only two races went to recounts because the margin of victory in those races was within 0.5 percent, which triggers a machine recount under state law.

After a machine recount, the margin of victory was still within 0.25 percent in both races, mandating a hand recount under state law.

Given the extremely close margins, the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office had prepared for the possibility of a tie. According to state law, if the result is a tie, the winner is chosen by drawing lots, like straws or cards from a deck. The elections office bought a deck of cards, printed names on slips of paper and had a coin ready in case, said spokesman Dustin Chase.

But in the end, none of that was needed.

When final results showed that Kerr, a 62-year-old business owner, had officially overtaken Dillon for the Madeira Beach commission seat, the two men shook hands and posed for a photo together.

“I had it for two days and now you got it,” Dillon, a 69-year-old retiree, said to Kerr.

Kerr said as a commissioner, he wants to improve city infrastructure and create an active marina with restaurants and retail.

In Tarpon Springs, Eisner, 67, and Koulianos, 24, praised each other for running clean campaigns and avoiding mud-slinging.

Koulianos, a recent University of South Florida graduate who worked on an economic investment plan for Tarpon Springs, said he was proud of his campaign, and respected voters’ wishes, although he was disappointed.

Eisner, who served on the city’s Board of Adjustment for six years, was vocal on the campaign trail in his opposition to a new apartment complex approved for green space along the Anclote River.

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Eisner said the recount process was honest, transparent and truthful. He said he looks forward to serving the city with the new incoming administration.

“I’m trying to make the city better than it was,” Eisner said.

On Friday, the canvassing board for the Supervisor of Elections also certified the results for the other races in Tuesday’s election that had earlier been decided.