Ferrara Humbled by Close, Prolonged Council Race
Ward 1 incumbent won't know if he retains his seat officially until Monday
For Garret Ferrara, the race for the Ward 1 Kent City Council seat is far from over.
The incumbent Republican learned Tuesday that the final, official vote count for the Nov. 8 election by the Portage County Board of Elections — including 33 provisional ballots — gives him the win over his Democratic challenger Melissa Long.
Ferrara received 764 votes to Long's 757, according to the elections board. But the narrow, seven-vote margin of victory triggered an automatic recount, which the elections board will conduct at 8 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 5, in Ravenna. Final, but unofficial results from 21 days ago on election night, which excluded the provisional ballots counted Tuesday, showed Ferrara had a 10-vote lead that wouldn't have required a recount.
"It’s been trying at times, like the first week you feel like you’re just in limbo," Ferrara said of the prolonged election. "You’re constantly (having) people asking you what happened. Instead of ‘I won,' or 'I lost,' it’s 'well, I really don’t know.' You’re just kind of in no man’s land."
For the opponents, being frustrated is something they have in common.
"I just absolutely would like this election to be over," Long said.
The 74-year-old candidate has to wait a little longer for the recount on Dec. 5, which she will attend with legal counsel.
"That’s nearly a month since the election, and that’s long enough for this to really carry on," she said.
The narrowing vote margins, from 10 to seven after both counts, and the long wait gave the incumbent cause and time to take a hard look at what might have prompted such a close race. Ferrara was the only one of six council incumbents to face opposition for their ward seat this November.
Ferrara points to a number of reasons for the close race, including a high voter turn-out for Issue 2, backlash against Republican candidates and the fact his ward is mostly comprised of Democrats. Kent, he said, is thriving, and it's hard for him to consider voter backlash against council in general as the reason.
"Look at where the city is now," he said. "I’m responsive to the city’s needs. We get things done on council. I get things done for constituents who have problems with their streets. If it was just backlash against the incumbents, then there probably would be other people running for reelection as opposed to all those people unopposed."
He said he doesn't think the close race means Ward 1 residents are trying to send him a message.
"What’s the message? People just don’t like you? If there’s a message, I would think it would have to (go to) all of council, and I was the only one who was contested," he said. "I’m not an arrogant person, so I don’t mean (for) that to come across.
"You have to think to yourself, 'am I doing something wrong?' Or is there something that we’re not doing," Ferrara said. "I don’t think we’re doing anything wrong, and I don’t think there’s anything I’m not doing."
Long, on the other hand, thinks that's exactly what the close race is — a message from the residents to their councilman.
"I truly do,” she said. “I think that as a seated council person he needs to sit up and take notice that evidently there are people within his ward he is not reaching and not communicating with, and there are people who want something more from a councilman than he’s giving.”
Still, Long couldn't point to a specific issue as to the reason she chose to run against Ferrara. Instead, the Kent Planning Commission member referred to a personal incident with Ferrara as why she ran for his seat. She declined to elaborate.
"I absolutely had no intentions of even running once I moved to Kent," she said.
Don't expect to see her in another campaign if Tuesday's results stand. The former mayor and council member from Cortland, OH, said she's looking forward to rejoining the Kent League of Women Voters and spending time on the Kent Environmental Council.
Ferrara said he doesn't expect to change his approach on council if he retains his seat following the close race, in part, because council's actions have helped Kent stave off the after-effects of the recession. But he acknowledges the closeness of the race and plans to make a stronger effort to explain future council votes.
"I think I give everything a fair shot from an objective viewpoint," he said. "I’m not there to make soundbites to get my name in the paper. And maybe because of that people don’t understand where I’m coming from on certain issues. But bottom line, I always put the city’s interests first.
"It’s a very humbling experience to put yourself out in the public eye and have people vote for you or not," he said.