Somerset Supervisor Richard J. Meyers wrapped up re-election Tuesday, holding on for a 10-vote victory over John E. Sweeney Jr. in a count of absentee ballots that ended what was probably the town's most contentious political year ever.
Meyers, who led by 15 votes as of the machine count on election night, Nov. 6, ended up winning, 491-481. Sweeney had 32 paper ballots to 27 for Meyers.
Incumbent Republican Randall J. Wayner held on to the second of two available Town Board seats, actually widening his lead over third-place Democrat Robert J. Degnan from 12 votes on election night to 25 votes Tuesday.
Unlike this year, Meyers will have at least one ally on the Town Board in 2008: Republican Daniel M. Engert, who won the first board seat. He got 600 votes, compared with 524 for Wayner, 499 for Degnan and 261 for GOP incumbent Richard N. Ray, who ran only on the Working Families Party ticket after losing the GOP and Democratic primaries.
Except for Degnan, all the candidates were Republicans, although the Democrats endorsed Sweeney, Wayner and Ray after the county Republican organization withdrew their support over the issues of the tax break for the AES Corp. power plant and the billings charged by Town Attorney Edwin J. Shoemaker and his firm.
The GOP organization, which supports the AES deal and opposes Shoemaker, threw its weight behind Meyers, Engert and Degnan.
County GOP Chairman Henry F. Wojtaszek stuck with that team even after Meyers lost the GOP primary to Sweeney by 44 votes and had to run only on the Independence and Conservative lines.
Shoemaker, with the support of everyone on the board except Meyers, filed a lawsuit challenging the county Industrial Development Agency's granting of the 12-year tax break to AES. According to Meyers, the town has spent $1.36 million on legal fees since January 2005, more than $800,000 of it with Shoemaker and his partners. The Town Board has voted to appeal the suit against AES and the IDA after losing before State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. in September.
"The process went as expected. Let's move on," Meyers said.
Wayner said he was just glad the election is over. "It's just been so convoluted," he said.
In another count of absentee ballots Tuesday, Bradley L. Rehwaldt held on to a four-year term for Royalton town councilman, while James G. Budde will serve a two-year term.
Royalton voters chose three council members Nov. 6, with the top two finishers in a five-candidate field taking four-year terms and the third-place vote-getter winning a two-year unexpired term left behind when Calvin W. Rhoney was appointed to a vacancy as supervisor last year.
As of election night, Jennifer H. Bieber, a Republican backed by the Democrats, was way out in front with 1,357 votes, to 950 for Rehwaldt and 935 for Budde. Budde, a Democrat, got only three votes closer Tuesday, picking up 42 absentee votes to the Republican Rehwaldt's 39.