North Stonington — A recount for the Board of Selectmen race Saturday morning yielded the same results as Tuesday: Republican selectman candidate Brett Mastroianni lost the seat to petitioning first selectman candidate Bob Testa by just one vote.
Though Testa was not a candidate for selectman, state statutes mandate that votes cast for an unsuccessful first selectman candidate be counted as votes for a selectman spot instead. Incumbent First Selectman Nicholas H. Mullane II took 838 votes, while Testa received 702 and Mastroianni received 701.
Mark Donahue, the only Democrat running, came in last of the five candidates but held onto his seat because of minority representation requirements.
After ballots were counted Tuesday evening, Peggy Reeves, assistant to the secretary of the state for elections, legislative and intergovernmental affairs, initially told Registrar of Voters Marilyn Mackay that a recount would not be necessary.
According to emails, there was some debate in the secretary of the state’s office over whether Title 9, Chapter 148, Section 311a — which requires a recanvass for a close vote of 20 or fewer — applied to the race because of the minority representation requirements that kept Mastroianni from taking Donahue’s seat.
On Thursday, Mastroianni sent a recount request to Town Hall, after which election moderator Mary Cooper called for a “discrepancy recanvass.”
Testa emailed town officials and the secretary of the state’s office questioning the decision to hold a “discrepancy recanvass” under Sec. 9-311 when there was no apparent discrepancy in the results. Testa also threatened legal action if the recount were held.
Ultimately, staff attorney Ted Bromley of the secretary of the state’s office wrote that there was “enough grey area” in 9-311a to allow for a recount, and that an election moderator could also determine that there was a discrepancy.
“Because this issue has become very contentious, we are forced to instruct that a recount be conducted,” Bromley wrote.
Mullane, Mastroianni, Donahue, Testa and Testa’s running mate, Tim Pelland, all sat in the Town Hall meeting room for the three hours it took to conduct the recount Saturday, along with some other town officials and supporters.
“I truly felt that (Mastroianni) would have been a much better selectman,” Mullane said, adding that Testa “caused a bit of turmoil and commotion that wasn’t really necessary.”
“I just wanted the right thing to be done,” Testa said of his questioning the recount.
Mastroianni said he was not expecting to see a difference in the results of the recount and that he was happy to have received the highest number of votes in the selectman category.