Recount a possibility

Published 12:58 am Thursday, November 10, 2011

The outcome of Tuesday’s Washington City Council election isn’t entirely certain.

Unofficial totals showed incumbent Councilman Gil Davis trailing former Councilman Richard Brooks by three votes Tuesday.

Davis’ sixth-place finish — with 556 votes to Brooks’ 559 votes — left him well within a 1-percent margin needed to request a recount, confirmed Kellie Harris Hopkins, Beaufort County’s elections director.

Davis has until 5 p.m. Wednesday to call for a recount, Hopkins said. The candidate hadn’t officially made that request by the close of business Wednesday.

All vote totals are unofficial until canvassed by the Board of Elections at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Davis couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

If Brooks retains even a one-vote lead, he’ll return to the council after an absence of two years, having been defeated in 2009 following an uproar over the rates charged by Washington Electric Utilities.

Brooks made it known he doesn’t fear a recount.

“It’s fine,” he said. “I just believe (election workers) got it right, so I don’t have any problem with it.”

Brooks’ new tenure on the council reportedly would give Washington the second majority-black council in its history.

“I don’t see that as a mandate from either black citizens or white citizens,” said the Rev. David Moore, a former Beaufort County commissioner who turned up at the elections’ offices Tuesday night to pore over the returns.

“It’s apparent that Brooks couldn’t win just based on the minority vote,” added Moore, a longtime observer of the local political scene. “He picked up an awful lot of white support.”

Brooks came in third in the majority-black P.S. Jones Ward 3, behind fellow minority candidates Ed Moultrie and William Pitt, both of whom achieved re-election to the council.

There was some evidence of “undervoting” in Ward 3, meaning voters in that ward clustered their strength around Pitt, Brooks and Moultrie, but they declined to vote for a full contingent of office-seekers.

Washington voters are allowed to vote for five council candidates, and all five seats on that body were up for grabs this year.

Moore didn’t see signs of what he called “a minority onslaught,” though, asserting Brooks and his family ran a quiet, low-cost campaign, appealing to black and white voters by going door to door and making public appearances.

“My take on it is the city of Washington is simply beginning to grow up,” Moore commented. “Race is beginning to play less and less of a factor. And this was an amazing comeback for Brooks.”

Greg Dority, chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party, referenced a “razor-thin margin” in Tuesday’s results.

A GOP subcommittee had gambled on two political newcomers — Lloyd May and Rick Gagliano — identifying the two as potential comers in a search to place conservative leaders on the nonpartisan council.

The conservatives didn’t rally around these two men in sufficient numbers, it seemed. May and Gagliano finished seventh and eighth, respectively.

“Superior organization by the Democratic Party resulted in this surprising outcome, and I think we can all learn a lot from this race for 2012,” Dority stated.

But both men indicated they’d be willing to launch bids again.

“We tried our best. We did what we had to do,” Gagliano said Wednesday. “We were a factor in this race, and we’ll be back.”