Export mayor ready for second term after one-vote win upheld

| Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, 1:39 p.m.

Bob Campagna said Monday he won't appeal the decision of the Westmoreland County Board of Elections to credit variously spelled write-in votes to incumbent Mayor Mike Calder. And for the first time, Calder said he will accept a second term in office.

Campagna's decision not to appeal guarantees a one-vote victory for Calder, whom the board of elections last week credited with a 91-90 win in the Nov. 5 general election.

After learning of Campagna's decision, Calder — who had withdrawn from the general election and received only write-in votes— said he would continue to serve.

“I was comfortable being one and done, but these election results are astounding,” Calder said.

“For people to come out and support a second term in that fashion is so staggering that I couldn't decline a second term.”

He said he was especially humbled that the support was in the form of write-in votes.

“For someone to vote for you (as a write-in), it means they came to the election to specifically do that,” Calder said.

“It's far more deliberate; it's far more meaningful. And it's quite remarkable. But it took a lot of grit by the people who wanted to see this happen, and I give them all the credit for this.”

While conceding the election Monday afternoon, Campagna — a former mayor of the borough — said he still thought votes for “Mike Climar,” “Michael Caldwell” and “Mike Coldred” should not have gone to Calder.

Calder, 31, said although the computerized voting machines are relatively easy to use for people who grew up in the digital age, they pose challenges for older voters who want to vote for write-in candidates.

He said some older residents told him they had difficulty when trying to write his name with the touchscreen technology.

Campagna, 74, had until Tuesday at 4 p.m. to appeal the board of elections' decision to award the write-in votes to Calder.

Campagna said that wasn't enough time to consult with an attorney regarding an appeal.

“I want to make it very clear to all the people who voted for me that my decision not to appeal was solely based on not having enough time to file a legal appeal,” Campagna said.

“I was informed by the Westmoreland County Election Board and county commissioners I would have just five calendar days, which included just three working days, to appeal their decision.”

“I do not feel this was enough time given to me,” he said.

Calder lost the Democratic nomination to Campagna in the primary election.

Though he received enough write-in votes to win a Republican nomination, he had his named removed from the Republican ballot and said he was satisfied with being a one-term mayor.

Despite that announcement, there was an effort in the community to encourage voters to write in Calder's name on the ballot.

County commissioners Charles Anderson, Tyler Courtney and Ted Kopas serve as members of the board of elections.

On Nov. 21, they unanimously agreed that the variations of Calder's name were close enough to give him credit for the votes.

The county's election bureau initially did not count one write-in vote cast for “Mike Climar” as part of the mayor's vote total.

“We try to measure intent, which is a very difficult test. It's a very inexact science,” Election Bureau director Jim Montini said.

Commissioners said it appeared all 91 voters intended to vote for Calder.

If just one of the write-in votes was not counted, Calder and Campagna would have finished in a tie that would have been broken by a casting of lots.

Brian Estadt is a news editor with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400 or bestadt@tribweb.com. Staff writer Rich Cholodofsky contributed to this report.

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