Originally Published: August 31, 2017 6:01 a.m.
Nothing changed this week in the status of Prescott’s pending runoff election, despite the addition of nearly 800 ballots that had yet to be counted on primary night.
Based on the “unofficial final results” released by the Yavapai County Recorder’s office Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 30, mayoral candidates Greg Mengarelli and Jean Wilcox will face off in the Nov. 7 general election, as will all six of the council candidates, Phil Goode, Alexa Scholl, Steve Blair, Connie Cantelme, Joe Viccica, and Greg Lazzell.
The determination came after 795 additional ballots were added to the total. Among the uncounted ballots were those that came in during the final hours of voting in Prescott’s Aug. 29 primary, as well as those that had generated questions about voter signatures, County Recorder Leslie Hoffman and Registrar of Voters Laurin Custis explained on Wednesday.
In the final numbers, Mengarelli remained in the lead in the mayor’s race, with nearly 42 percent of the vote. Wilcox came in second with 29.6 percent, and mayoral candidate Mary Beth Hrin was third with 28.39 percent.
Since none of the candidates received the required 50-percent-plus-one of the ballots cast, the top two — Mengarelli and Wilcox — will meet in a run-off.
Both said Tuesday night that they were looking forward to the Nov. 7 runoff.
On Wednesday, Hrin said: “I am eternally grateful to all my supporters, and especially Brenda Dickinson, for all their hard work and encouragement during this long, and at times, very difficult campaign. As a candidate, it was an honor to speak before the voters about the issues critical to our city’s future. And I am proud of the ethical campaign we ran.”
She added: “The next mayor will need the experience and dedication to move Prescott in the right direction and I wish both candidates well.”
The results of the council race have been less clear for voters. On primary night, the matter generated some confusion about whether the top three vote-getters should be elected outright.
That continued Wednesday, with voters questioning the need for a runoff — especially in light of a 2015 state law that deals with how cities should calculate the majority of votes cast.
The law would have made the threshold lower, which all three candidates would have likely cleared.
On primary night, Prescott City Attorney Jon Paladini stated that, under the rules of the city charter, none of the council candidates received enough votes to be elected outright in the primary.
In order for that to happen, he said, the candidates would have needed to get 50-percent-plus-one of the total ballots cast, which stood at 16,432 at the time — requiring 8,217 votes to be elected outright.
None of the six council candidates came close to that number, with top vote-getter Phil Goode getting 6,984.
On Wednesday, after the Yavapai County Recorder’s office released its unofficial final numbers, the total ballots cast had grown to 17,227, which drove the 50-percent-plus-one number to about 8,615.
Under the updated numbers on Wednesday, Goode was still the top vote-getter with 7,286 votes, while Scholl came in second with 7,224, and Blair was third with 6,922. Other candidates received: Cantelme, 5,920; Viccica, 5,605; and Lazzell, 5,445.
Paladini reiterated on Wednesday that none of the candidates reached the required mark to be elected outright in the primary. Because the city charter requires that the two top candidates for each unfilled seat advances to the runoff, he said all six of the candidates would be listed on the ballot.
And, because Prescott is a “charter city,” Paladini said the 2015 state law does not apply. He noted that the courts have ruled time after time that Arizona’s charter cities have the right to decide how they elect their officials. “We get to determine how to count the votes,” he said.
The fact that there were six candidates this year, and all six will advance to the runoff, Paladini said, “Is just a matter of coincidence.” If there had been eight candidates, and none received the required number, for instance, he said the two lowest vote-getters would have been eliminated, and the others would have advanced.
On primary night, the candidates appeared to accept that, with most expressing satisfaction that they were advancing to the runoff.
Goode said he was happy with his status as top vote-getter and was hopeful that he could maintain that spot in the runoff.
Scholl, who at age 19 is among Prescott’s youngest City Council candidates ever (if not the youngest), said she was pleased that voters had been accepting of her age. “I just love Prescott so much,” she said. “We have so many great things in the pipeline.”
Several candidates also emphasized their satisfaction with the voters’ approval of Proposition 443, the 0.75-percent sales tax increase to pay down the city’s pension debt.
Incumbents Blair and Lazzell, for instance, both said they were not as concerned with winning another term on the council as with the passage of the sales tax increase.
“I’m tickled to death. I don’t care whether I win or lose; I’m just glad (443 passed),” Blair said.
Viccica and Cantelme also focused on the proposition’s success. “I’m so happy 443 passed, and that we have a chance to go forward,” Vicicca said.
Goode, the only council candidate who did not support the tax, said that as a councilman he hoped to work to ensure that all of the general-fund money that has been going toward the city’s pension payments would continue to go toward the debt, along with the sales tax revenue.
The unofficial final results showed that 17,227 voters cast ballots in the primary, amounting to 59.09 percent of registered voters.