Congdon's bid to return as Preston first selectman survives recount

Preston election voting checkers Fran Mazzella, left, and Peter Lincoln, attempt to read a ballot Tuesday as officials conduct a municipal election recount for the first selectman race between incumbent Robert Congdon and Timothy Bowles in the lower meeting room of the Preston Town Hall.
Preston election voting checkers Fran Mazzella, left, and Peter Lincoln, attempt to read a ballot Tuesday as officials conduct a municipal election recount for the first selectman race between incumbent Robert Congdon and Timothy Bowles in the lower meeting room of the Preston Town Hall.

Preston - In a recount of last Tuesday's first selectmen election, incumbent Republican Robert Congdon lost one vote, but his challenger, Democratic Selectman Timothy Bowles did not gain it, giving Congdon the 609 to 593 victory by 16 votes.

Congdon had won by 17 votes a week earlier, 610 to 593.

"Time to go back to work," Congdon said Tuesday after spending nearly three hours in the lower level conference room at Town Hall observing the recount in between phone calls and brief discussions with the several residents who attended the public recount.

Election moderator Ted Powell presided over the recount, instructing an equal number of Democratic and Republican election checkers and the town's two registrars of voters on the process. The group first hand-counted all 1,211 ballots - affirming the same number as counted on election night.

But when Powell and Republican Registrar Ellie Michaud fed the ballots into the town's one election machine, the total read 1,210. Congdon speculated that two ballots might have been stuck together and fed into the machine. The one vote did not affect the outcome, and Powell said the recount would not be repeated.

Only the first selectman race was recounted, and several write-in votes for that race did not count. There were no registered write-in candidates on the ballot.

Both Democrats and Republicans in attendance Tuesday said the recount went smoothly.

Bowles could not attend Tuesday's recount. His selectman running mate, Walter Kornosowicz, attended as his observer. Kornosowicz chatted with Congdon frequently throughout the morning and accepted the result.

This was not Congdon's first recount. In 2002, Congdon ran for state representative and won by five votes in the district that covers Ledyard, Preston and part of Montville. Congdon said he didn't expect anything to change Tuesday, since the town has only one polling place and uses one ballot reading machine.

Republican Registrar Parke Spicer, the longtime former first selectman, said the most difficult recount was the 2008 presidential election, when Preston's total on election night didn't match the machine.

"We were here for nine hours, and we had to do it again," he said.

c.bessette@theday.com

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