Newton officials have scheduled a recount of votes cast in the recent City Council race, after a write-in candidate asserted some of her supporters cast their votes in the wrong contest.
Allison Sharma’s run for office led to the first contested council race in Newton’s Ward 4 in more than a decade. She said she jumped into the race after a longtime city councilor stepped aside and endorsed the only candidate on the ballot to replace him.
“I really thought it was time to have a contested race, where people are forced to get out there and campaign,” Sharma said.
In the Nov. 7 election, Sharma’s write-in campaign came up short in her run against Christopher J. Markiewicz, who was the sole candidate on the ballot for the Ward 4 seat. Markiewicz won with 1,122 votes, while Sharma received 944 write-in votes, according to the city clerk’s office.
City election officials decided Monday to conduct a recount of the Ward 4 city councilor race on Dec. 2. The move came after Sharma said she believed some of her supporters incorrectly cast their ballots in a separate at-large councilor race that received 814 write-in votes.
While Sharma doesn’t believe all of those write-in votes were for her, she said enough of her supporters have told her they were confused about where to put her name on the ballot.
“I have friends who were really upset that they voted for me in the at-large seat,” Sharma said.
The recount will be held in the Newton North High School cafeteria beginning at 10:30 a.m., said Tyler Church, the assistant city clerk.
Church said 20 election workers, along with the four-member Newton Election Commission, will conduct the recount of the Ward 4 council race between Sharma and Markiewicz. The candidates are invited to attend, and may bring observers to monitor the recount, he said.
Markiewicz is a certified public accountant and president of All Newton Music School’s board of trustees, according to his campaign website.
Sharma is a consultant and has worked as a volunteer for local community organizations, including the Burr Elementary School’s parents group and the United Parish of Auburndale.
Leading up to the Nov. 7 city election, Sharma and Markiewicz campaigned to replace outgoing Councilor John “Jay” Harney, who has served since 2003. Sharma said she mulled running for local office before, but didn’t want to run against a popular incumbent.
For the past 14 years, the ward has had the same representatives — councilors at-large Amy Mah Sangiolo and Leonard J. Gentile, with Harney as ward councilor — and there hasn’t been a contested council race since 2003.
Battling an incumbent in Newton is tough, and many would-be challengers, like Sharma, would rather wait for an open seat than take on a sitting elected official.
Harney said he made the decision to not run again after receiving some unexpected personal medical news in late July. While he said he is feeling well now, he said he reassessed his priorities last summer.
“It made me think there are way more important things in life than politics,” Harney said.
Harney said he endorsed Markiewicz because they worked together on neighborhood issues, and Markiewicz was a candidate for office.
“I just decided to express my support to someone who was on the ballot,” Harney said.
Harney’s announcement that he would not run again, and his endorsement of Markiewicz, came after the July deadline to file nomination papers to appear on the Nov. 7 ballot.
“People were upset that this had happened and people wouldn’t have a choice,” said Sharma. “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”
Sharma hasn’t ruled out another run in 2019, when the ward seat opens up again. A recount will show how successful she was in mounting a competitive race, she said.
“It is definitely a difficult legal battle to win to get those votes counted in my favor,” Sharma said “I just want to know how many people voted for me.”John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org