BRUNSWICK — Jackie Sartoris, the candidate trailing in an incredibly close Democratic primary race for state House District 50, is formally requesting a recount in the election.
According to Tuesday’s results, candidate Ralph Tucker led Sartoris, 441-432, a margin of only nine votes.
Sartoris, in a release Thursday night, said that after considerable thought and discussion with family and supporters, she determined the tiny margin in the election deserved a second look.
“I agree with the Deputy Secretary of State’s assessment that this is the sort of election result for which a recount really makes sense,” Sartoris said.
“While I do not expect a change in the result, certainty is important in the election,” Sartoris said.
She clairified that her recount request was not a criticism of the professional efforts of Brunswick’s town clerks during the election.
The two candidates are vying to replace Charlie Priest to represent an eastern portion of Brunswick at the Statehouse. The winner will face Republican Mark Holbrook in the November general election.
Tucker, in an interview Tuesday night, said he was not making any predictions about the outcome of the race, but expressed confidence that the final tally would remain the same.
“I think that’s likely, especially with machine-counted ballots, trying to move it nine votes might be tough,” he said.
Although Sartoris was ahead by 18 votes at Tuesday’s polls, Tucker narrowly closed the gap with absentee ballots, winning 27 more than Sartoris, who acknowledged her campaign had not used an absentee ballot strategy during the election.
The prolonged race between Tucker and Sartoris has been highly competitive and at times, contentious. Tucker announced his candidacy more than a year ago, and Sartoris advertised her run last October.
Tucker is a retired District Court judge, former State Worker’s Compensation Commissioner and a long-time Democratic party insider.
In an interview last month, he identified education as his top priority and said his political connections and experience in state government would make him an effective legislator.
In late May, Tucker received a primary endorsement from the Maine AFL-CIO, a powerful labor union in the state.
Tucker spent heavily on the campaign, eventually expending more than $11,000, including buying radio and TV spots, according to a May 31 campaign finance report filed with the elections commission. About $2,300 of his spending was from in-kind donations.
Sartoris, in comparison, ran a shoestring campaign as a Maine clean-elections candidate. As of her last filing on May 30, Sartoris had only spent a little more than $800 on her campaign.
Now an attorney specializing in elder law, Sartoris worked for years as a policymaker in New York City and Augusta. She was elected to the Brunswick Town Council in 2000 and served four terms.
In an interview last month, she said she wanted to push legislation featuring sustainability in the economy, education and other areas and highlighted her ability to build consensus as a reason she would be an effective legislator.
The primary race has frequently been contentious, with complaints of ethics violations on both sides.
In March, Tucker was accused of violating the town’s zoning ordinance by placing campaign signs on several lawns during the Democratic Party caucus. In an interview last month Tucker said he was surprised the issue raised so much controversy and called the sign ordinance unconstitutional, a position recently echoed by the town’s attorney.
Last month, Sartoris stepped down from the Brunswick Sewer Board of Trustees, claiming that a conflict of interest provision in the Town Council’s appointment policy was being used by the chairman of the town’s Republican Committee to cast her in a negative light during the primary.
The controversy reached a high pitch in the final days of the election, after an email from Sartoris to the head of the Brunswick Democratic Committee in which she sharply criticized the ethics of Tucker’s campaign tactics appeared on a local blog, leading to a debate over ethics on a local radio station on Saturday.