BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — The recount in Ward 6 turned out to be a rerun.
Challenger Beth Gerard defeated incumbent Ward 6 City Councilor Paul Prevey by 16 votes in yesterday’s hand recount, the same margin of victory as the Nov. 5 city election.
“I’m just so excited ... (and) I’m so honored that the people put their trust in me,” said Gerard, 38, a research analyst and clerk to the city’s Planning Board making her first run for office.
Gerard, who had to sit nervously through the two-hour recount in the Council Chambers at City Hall, also admitted that she felt “relieved.”
Although a court challenge seemed possible at one point due to questions over several ballots, Prevey decided to concede after talking with his attorney. He congratulated Gerard at the end of the recount.
“It was obviously a very close race,” he said. “Beth won, and I do wish her well.
“I certainly am appreciative of the eight years I’ve been able to serve the people of Ward 6. ...They are wonderful, wonderful people and I feel fortunate that I had such a big group of people around me and that I represented such a wonderful ward.”
Prevey was represented by Mary Ellen Manning, an attorney, state Senate candidate and former member of the Governor’s Council.
Attorney Dennis Newman, a veteran of election recounts, was in Gerard’s corner. Just a few days ago, he represented Lawrence City Councilor Daniel Rivera in his razor-thin victory over embattled Mayor William Lantigua.
In Monday’s recount, Gerard prevailed 484-468, a 16-vote victory. Of the 1,001 votes cast, 44 were blanks and five were write-in ballots that did not count for either candidate.
On Nov. 5, Gerard won 483-467 — thus, each candidate picked up a vote in the recount but remained the same number of votes apart.
The recount took place in a hushed council chambers before about 40 onlookers, including city councilors Tom Furey, William Legault, Josh Turiel and Joseph O’Keefe.
At the start of the recount, Registrar Chuck Barton addressed the crowd.
“We shall have absolute quiet...” said Barton, who knows something about recounts. His 2007 bid for a council seat ended in a recount, which he lost.
The ballots were hand-counted at separate stations for Precincts 1 and 2, with observers for each candidate hovering over city workers. As each ballot was placed in a clear plastic bin, the names “Prevey” or “Gerard” were called out.
Prevey and Gerard sat on opposite sides of the room, which was packed with onlookers. Mayor Kim Driscoll stayed in her office during the proceeding, congratulating Gerard before heading out the door.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.