Two votes separate candidates for mayor

Denise Wright

Hawksley and Fiala still neck-and-neck

Independent mayoral candidate Jerry Fiala pulled ahead of Democratic candidate Rick Hawksley in the final election report with 2,013 of the 4,024 votes cast – only two more votes than Hawksley received.

“I don’t know what to say,” Fiala said after the results were posted. “I’m just really stunned by the two-vote margin.”

Hawksley said although he had an idea that the race would be close, he grew more comfortable as results posted throughout the night.

“It just goes to show that it comes down to the order in which the precincts are counted,” Hawksley said.

A representative at the Portage County Board of Elections said a certified vote tally will be released on Nov. 24 after provisional votes have been counted. At that point, it will be determined if a recount will be necessary. According to Ohio law, a recount is necessary when the winning margin is less than one-half percent of the total vote.

Fiala said he can only hope the margin stays the same or increases once the official results come through.

Whoever is determined the victor will succeed Mayor John Fender, who has served as mayor of the city since Jan. 1, 1998. Although Kent’s city manager structure makes the mayor more of a ceremonial position, he will be responsible for presiding as president over council meetings and breaking a tie vote when necessary. He will also act as a promoter for the city and university.

Fender said he endorsed neither candidate because he felt both had enough experience on Kent City Council. He said he simply wanted citizens to educate themselves and vote for whomever best met their individual criteria.

As far as qualifications are concerned, Fiala previously served as the Kent Ward 1 councilman for 14 years and was appointed mayor for a year in 1997 following Mayor Kathleen Chandler’s election to the Ohio House of Representatives. He previously held office as a Democrat but ran as an Independent in the mayoral race.

Hawksley has spent eight years as an at-large councilman for Kent City Council and is currently a board member of the Community Action Council, an agency that helps operate programs and services for low-income Portage County residents.

During the race, both candidates stressed the importance of economic development in the community as well as working to improve relations between the university and community members.

Although the general election results make the race still to close to call, Fiala said he plans to celebrate with his campaign contributors later this week.

“Right now, I think I’m going to sit down and regroup,” Fiala said. “There won’t be any celebration tonight, but there will be one coming.”

While Hawksley may not be celebrating, he anticipates the posting of the official results on the 24th.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how this shakes out,” Hawksley said.

Contact public affairs reporter Denise Wright at [email protected].