After a town-wide recount today, write-in candidate Mike Mandel gained votes but still lost his bid for an at-large seat on the Watertown Town Council by 89 votes, according to Town Clerk John Flynn.
Mandel gained four votes from the unofficial results of Nov. 8's municipal elections. In the recount, Mandel had 1,358 votes, according to Flynn.
Mandel, a 12-year Watertown resident and public artist, mounted a write-in campaign for councilor-at-large two weeks before the election, standing on an anti-Walmart platform.
The superstore company boasting low merchandise prices is planning to submit a proposal to Watertown that would turn the 7.8-acre property that used to house GE Ionics into a Walmart store, complete with a full-service grocery section.
Mandel and other concerned residents cited increased traffic, noise and sound pollution, property devaluation and threats to small business owners as main threats a Walmart branch could bring to Watertown.
Mandel said in an email he sent tonight that although he lost the election, he thinks the message to keep Walmart out of town prevailed.
"Let there be a sea of red lawn signs, 'No Walmart,' on every house in every block of this town," he said. "No matter what precinct we live in, we will all be affected by the traffic, the crime, the blight to our neighborhoods, the decrease in property values."
Walmart spokesperson Steven Restivo previously said that he thinks residents would appreciate access to affordable groceries, and that the Watertown branch would create between 150 and 200 jobs.
“The majority of our jobs across the country are full-time, and our regular fulltime hourly wage in the state of Massachusetts is $13.20 per hour, and that does not include members of management,” he said. “We feel really good about the competitive nature of our jobs, and we think they are among the best in all of retail.”
While residents criticize the store for possibly adding traffic to an already busy Watertown Square, Restivo said store officials would look into the issue.
“It’s obviously in our best interest to make sure customers can get to and from the store as easily as they can,” he said.
Mandel wrote in his email tonight that the complexity of his write-in campaign probably hindered his ability to get elected.
"We realized it would be improbable to make up 91 votes," Mandel wrote. "But of course, it was unbelievable that in two weeks that I almost won the election outright. We only filed for a recount with the advice and encouragement of our supporters. Because a write-in election is different. Voters have to do so much more to register their vote, writing in my name, or placing a sticker in the right place."
Mandel said in the email that he gained numerous additional votes past the four, but that they were not counted in the official tally.
"The recount enabled us to identify that there were an additional 56 intended votes for me that were erroneously positioned in the wrong category on the ballot, or were disqualified for a variety of other reasons, making this election even closer than the final vote totals suggest," Mandel wrote.
According to the recount, Councilor Stephen Corbett was fourth with 1,447 votes, while Councilor John Donohue ran third with 1,457 votes. Councilor Susan Falkoff was the top votegetter with 2,184, followed by Councillor Anthony Palomba with 2,096.
Flynn said in a previous Boston.com article that the recount would probably cost Watertown a few thousand dollars.
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