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Pensacola City Council D-1 Race Going to Recount

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It appears a runoff will be conducted for the Pensacola City Council’s District-1 seat, after the candidates were deadlocked on Tuesday — literally.

It’s among the rarest of election results. On Tuesday night, incumbent P.C. Wu and challenger Jennifer Brahier each had collected 2,339 votes for 50% each. As of Thursday morning, Brahier had five more votes at 2,344. Supervisor of Elections David Stafford says it’s now on to the next step.

“Generally if at the conclusion of the first unofficial results, which will include provisional ballots, a contest is decided by a half a percentage point or less, then an automatic machine recount will be required,” said Stafford.

If at the conclusion of the machine recount — if the margin is a quarter of a percentage point or less — then it goes to a manual recount.

“It’s looking at any ballots in which there’s what’s called an ‘overvote’ – where the tabulator is reading a vote for both candidates,” Stafford said. “[Or] an ‘undervote,’ which is the tabulator not reading a vote for either candidate, or just some issue, some unclear mark or something. As are the ones that have eyes on for the canvassing board, to see if they can determine any sort of voter intent.”

“Today we are up five whole people; we’re ahead by five votes as of this morning," said Jennifer Brahier, laughing. “I plan to monitor [the recount]; I believe Friday is the canvass meeting and I plan to attend that.”

Brahier jumped into the city council race, she says, because of what she calls a lack of response by Wu’s office on their concerns about construction of soccer fields at Hitzman Park, after the city traded land with the YMCA. Wu voted for the swap, Brahier was part of the opposition.

“We couldn’t get any good answers from [Wu], he wouldn’t respond to us, period,” said Brahier. “And so we felt like we didn’t have representation for our district. There were a group of us who felt the same way and we decided to put me forth. That’s what triggered it.” 

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Credit City of Pensacola
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If elected, Brahier says she’ll bring to the council a beefed-up effort to give constituents the right to be heard.

“The residents of this district have tons of knowledge about their areas and their homes,” Brahier says. “They have a lot of insight on how to be most efficient when we move forward. And within this district they’ve been fairly excluded from the process.”

“Basically when somebody says to you that you‘re not listening to them, point in fact is, they’re saying that you did not vote the way they wanted you to vote,” said Councilman P.C. Wu, in response to Brahier’s allegations.

“My job as an elected official is to listen to as many voices as possible, and then make a decision based on what’s best for the greater good,” added Wu. “Since you only have one vote – and it can either be ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – it’s virtually impossible to make everybody happy.”

After 16 years on the council, Wu concedes that the tie surprised him somewhat, as it did some of his political brethren.

“One of the guys I called was Hayward Strong, the former mayor of Valparaiso; very involved with politics and he’s 89 years old.” I said, ‘Hayward, in all your years in politics have you ever heard of a tie?’ And his reply was no, he had never heard of one.”

Whoever comes out second after the recount will not have an avenue for appeal – the numbers are what the numbers are. Brahier was asked if she comes up short, will she accept the outcome.

“Of course,” she said. “And then also, we will recognize that we have built quite a coalition and we will make sure that we’re heard at City Hall, whether I am the one sitting there as their representative, or just helping us be heard.”

Same question to P.C. Wu.

“No question about accepting it,” he said. “Not only do I plan to accept it, I plan to help my opponent in any way that I can. American democracy depends on the peaceful transfer of power.”

The first unofficial results in all of the races is scheduled to be determined Friday morning, says elections chief David Stafford. At that point, work on the recount can begin, perhaps early next week.

“Either that, or it could be as soon as this weekend,” said Stafford. “One of the things they’re able to do is a conditional notice of a meeting – basically saying, ‘Hey, if it certainly looks like if a recount is going to happen.’ If it does, at the conclusion of this first unofficial result, then this is when the recount will happen.”

This is also a matchup of college instructors, Brahier teaches math at Pensacola State College, while Wu is a Professor Emeritus in Educational Leadership at the University of West Florida.