Bedwell wins, recount looms
Drew Bedwell is the winner of Nevada County’s District 3 supervisor’s race – unofficially.
According to uncertified final results released by the county Elections Office Monday, the property-rights activist added three votes to his slim 16-vote lead over incumbent Bruce Conklin following Monday’s computerized ballot count of the remaining 63 provisional ballots and two damaged ballots cast in District 3.
Before the election can be officially certified, however, Elections Office staff must complete a 1 percent manual tally of all ballots in one random precinct in each contest to verify the accuracy of the computerized ballot scanners.
With Robin Sutherland taking the District 4 supervisor’s race on election day by almost 1,000 votes, the apparent victory by Bedwell signals a dramatic reversal in the political makeup of county leadership.
While pleased with Monday’s results, Bedwell said it is too soon to celebrate. “It’s a step in the right direction, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said.
Since he is the one with the lead, Bedwell said, it will be up to his opponent to decide whether or not there is a recount.
“That’s Mr. Conklin’s call,” Bedwell said. “But statistically – this is borne out – the person in the lead tends to stay in the lead.”
Conklin’s campaign manager, Paul Matson, said he had hoped the tally would have swung in his candidate’s favor, but that the Conklin camp isn’t ready to concede or commit to a recount just yet.
“We’re going to observe the hand count in the District 3 precinct and then we’ll make that determination,” Matson said. “Following that, a recount could definitely be a possibility.”
Whoever requests a recount pays for it, said county Clerk Recorder Lorraine Jewett-Burdick.
“Someone requesting a recount puts money up front,” she explained. “We figure out the cost of an 8-hour day to do a recount, they pay that money in a check, and we hold it.”
If it appears the numbers aren’t going to change after the Elections Office has recounted five or six precincts, the person requesting the recount can stop it.
“We’ll give back a prorated portion of their amount, or they can continue all the way through the end,” Jewett-Burdick said. “If a recount shows that a race is reversed, they get all their money back.”
Jewett-Burdick said few tallies change during the 1 percent hand counts to verify the accuracy of the ballot scanner.
“Rare examples include a voter who marked a choice, erased that choice and made another choice,” she said.
Observers from both campaigns will be notified when the precinct randomly selected from District 3 will be hand-counted, tentatively scheduled for the end of this week or the first of next week.
California law provides for an official 28-day canvass, beginning the second day after the election. By law, the canvass must be completed by Dec. 3.
Jewett-Burdick said it will probably take the Elections Office until Dec. 3 to certify the election.
The current board tends to vote 4-1 on many issues, with four of the supervisors seen as slow-growth, environmentally oriented legislators.
At least one of those four – Elizabeth Martin – was defeated by Sutherland. Another is Conklin, along with Peter Van Zant and Barbara Green. Supervisor Sue Horne is seen as the lone current conservative dissenter, so the addition of Bedwell will mean a shift to a 3-2 conservative majority.
Elected supervisors take their posts at noon Jan. 6, 2003.
The 62-year-old Bedwell is a founder of Protect Your Property Rights, a grass-roots activist group formed in opposition to Natural Heritage 2020 land-use planning program unveiled more than two years ago, and has been a thorn in the side of county government ever since, according to his opponents.
He is a retired engineer, former teacher and self-described gold-dredging hobbyist.
Although final figures are not in yet, spending in the county supervisors race was on track to set a record. District 4 candidates spent a total of $257,189 through Oct. 19, according to campaign finance reports. That contest included write-in candidate Rene Antonson. The quarter-million dollar figure was just about twice the amount spent in District 3, in which Bedwell and Conklin had spent a combined $127,027 in cash and nonmonetary contributions.
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