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Luck of the draw could determine Export mayor

| Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Despite being the only Export mayoral candidate on the Nov. 5 ballot, Bob Campagna faced tough competition in the form of write-in votes for incumbent Mayor Mike Calder — and Mike Colden, and Mike Climar, and Michael Caldwell and the single name of “Coulter.”

The three Westmoreland County commissioners Thursday afternoon will interpret the intent of the people who cast write-in votes and certify the election results. An outright winner could be declared, or the race could come down to a “casting of lots” that would randomly determine the winner.

Campagna said he doesn't think all of the write-in votes should be credited to his opponent.

“No. And I'd feel the same way if my name was on a write-in ballot. To me, ‘Climar' is nowhere close to Calder, so I don't think commissioners can say that vote's for Calder. Same with ‘Caldwell.'”

“I don't think there should be much leeway in interpreting names,” he said.

Jim Montini, director of the county elections bureau, said the casting of lots would be in the form of two numbered pills placed in a container and the two candidates, or representatives of them, would draw the pills. Whoever draws pill No. 1 would be determined the winner.

Calder — who said he wasn't seeking another term as mayor — declined to say if he would accept a second term in office if he is certified as the winner.

“Truthfully, to quote Coach Mike Tomlin, ‘I'm not going to comment on hypotheticals,'” he wrote in an email on Tuesday.

But he did say he found it ridiculous that an election can be settled by randomness.

“I can't believe that casting lots is how we resolve ties in late-2013,” wrote Calder, 31. “No real man would settle a tie with a game of chance. Tell the other guy I will meet him on Washington Ave. this Thursday and we'll settle this the old-fashioned way.”

Campagna — a 74-year-old former Export mayor — said although he didn't like the prospect of an election being settled by the luck of the draw, he accepts it as the way ties are resolved.

“Well, I guess that's the law. I wish there was another way to choose the winner, but unfortunately, that's the law. When you fight so hard for a position and it comes to drawing a number out of a hat — there should be a better system, but I'll abide by the law.”

According to unofficial election results — which did not include the results from two absentee ballots — Campagna had 90 votes. There also were 90 write-in votes cast on election day. One of those write-ins was for Andrea Britz, and the rest were for Calder or names that some might interpret as an attempt at Calder's name.

Despite losing in his quest for the Democratic endorsement in the primary election, Calder received enough write-in votes to appear on the Nov. 5 ballot as a Republican. But saying he was satisfied with his accomplishments during his one term in office, the Democrat had his name removed from the ballot and declared he wasn't seeking another term.

A grass-roots effort sprang up that encouraged voters to write his name in during the general election.

If Calder is declared winner but declines to accept the term in office, then borough council would appoint someone mayor.

Even though Campagna could lose by a single vote or by merely the luck of the draw, council would not be obligated to appoint Campagna mayor.

That uncertainty has Campagna — who has been thanking his supporters this week — feeling anxious.

“I know there's a definitely a few people on council who don't want me to take that position,” he said.

Brian Estadt is a news editor with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400 or bestadt@tribweb.com.

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