Aberdeen Ward 5 voters may be on the verge of electing John Erak to the City Council. They’ve done it before, but Erak was alive then. This time he has been dead since June.
Erak had planned to run for re-election and filed for office. By law, a deceased candidate’s name remains on the ballot if he dies after the filing date and as it stands right now, Erak holds a narrow lead, 98 to 86, over Alan Richrod, who had filed to run against Erak and was elected by the council to fill Erak’s seat in Ward 5. If most of the votes go to Erak, the city council will choose who to seat in the position.
“I have not paid any attention whatsoever, I’m busy doing things,” said Richrod, reached shortly before 10 p.m. on Tuesday “It’s a democratic process” and “it will do what it does … let’s see what happens.” Richrod worried his supporters may feel disenfranchised and noted the situation is very rare.
Two Aberdeen council incumbents, President Kathi Hoder and Denny Lawrence, won outright in Ward 4 and Ward 6, and attributed Erak’s lead in the polls to name recognition. “The great Mr. Erak’s name has high recognition,” said Hoder, adding perhaps voters “thought they were honoring Mr. Erak (by) putting him back … sad for the guy (Richrod) who is trying to follow in his footsteps.”
Lawrence added “maybe (some voters) didn’t know John has passed on.”
“We can get it worked out,” said Hoder. Hoder and Lawrence will likely face off in a race for council president.
Lawrence, a past president, was gratified by his large lead and turnout in his ward. He has lost the seat twice before by a margin of 20 votes. “The is the first time I am outright ahead in the polls,” he said. “It is fantastic to have the constituent support.” Lawrence trounced challenger Michelle Barclay, with 71 percent of the vote.
Though Hoder was worried about her chances against Elaine Redner, she won by close to 70 percent of the vote. “I LOVE it,” she said. “I like what I do. I am very, very happy people had enough faith in me to put me back there. I make sure I do a great job, too.”
What will that job be? “Just being me, just doing the same things I have always done, caring about the city … doing good for them, going to give it my best damn try anyhow,” she said.
A third incumbent, Alice Phelps, was running ahead of challenger Roberta Myers in Ward 2 by a comfortable margin, 187 to 143. “I want to thank the people for voting the way they have and say that I am here to continue to work for them.” With 56 percent of the votes counted so far, Phelps thinks her chances “look pretty good.”
Her challenger, Roberta Myers, demurred. “Well, I am hoping we have a better count on Friday,” she said, adding she is “not conceding yet, (there are) still a whole bunch of votes out there.”
In the tightest council race of the night, challenger and political newcomer Tawni Andrews was running ahead of incumbent Councilmember John Smith 173 to 162, in South Aberdeen’s Ward 1. That race is too close to call.
“We’ll see what happens,” said Smith, not ready to concede yet. “She campaigned hard and spent time at it … she’ll do fine (if she wins),” he said. He noted with 335 votes cast of 1,301 ballots sent out, he doubted the lead would change hands.
“It is still early … more votes to count, the mail in ones,” said Andrews. “But I am thrilled. … I hope to do a good job. I am excited. I’m excited to do some good in the city.” Andrews has been active on Facebook pages discussing downtown Aberdeen and issues the city faces, but neither candidate was ready to say that was a factor.
Tim Alstrom is unopposed in Ward 3 and retains his seat.
An updated vote count will be released later this week.