Editor’s Note: This story has been updated since its original publication.
As of late Tuesday night, independent challenger Keith Gaskin had 66 more votes than Democratic Mayor Robert Smith — but there are still 158 affidavit ballots to be processed, meaning it remains too close to call.
Gaskin garnered 2,862 (49.99 percent) votes to Smith’s 2,796 (48.84 percent). Independent Montrell Coburn earned 67 votes.
City election officials will begin processing affidavits at 9 a.m. Thursday at City Hall.
“I’m excited to be in the lead tonight,” Gaskin told The Dispatch Tuesday night. “We feel good about our campaign, we feel good about ultimately being victorious in this campaign. Obviously, we’ll be watching closely how the votes are counted in the next couple of days, but we feel good and we’re excited.”
Smith said Wednesday he was optimistic about the potential outcome.
“I wanted to win, just like everybody else in this election contest, but I’m at peace,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “I’m optimistic about the affidavits and the absentee ballots, the rest of them.” (Election officials will count any absentee ballots that come in by June 15 as long as they were postmarked by election day.)
Gaskin beat Smith by 430 in votes cast on election day. However, Smith bested Gaskin by a 613 to 249 margin in absentees.
To win, a candidate must only obtain a plurality of the votes, which means the top vote-getter is the victor even if he doesn’t have a majority.
Turnout for the race was almost 39 percent.
Coburn did not return a message from The Dispatch by press time. The races that were called Tuesday include those for Ward 1 and Ward 3 council. Democrat Ethel Taylor Stewart won her first full term as councilwoman, defeating independent challenger Kallie Phillips by a 773 to 140 margin.
Stewart, who first won her seat during a special election in 2019, watched the ballot count Tuesday at the Municipal Complex. A Dispatch reporter approached her for comment after the results became clear, but Stewart declined, simply saying, “you put some crap in the paper in the past.”
Phillips congratulated Stewart on her win on Facebook Tuesday night, before thanking her voters and campaign volunteers for their support.
“My husband and Mother have been my biggest supporters and I thank them for supporting me in my efforts,” Phillips wrote. “No one could have ever done more to support me in my campaign. Now we must all join together to keep Columbus moving forward.”
In Ward 3, Republican Rusty Greene appears to have won, earning 747 votes to Democrat Sally Brown Tate’s 550 and independent Kori Bridges’ 50. Greene will replace the retiring Charlie Box on the council.
Greene, when reached by The Dispatch Wednesday, thanked his supporters and campaign staff.
“My opponents did a great job and certainly ran a strong campaign, and I was sweating it yesterday, but I’m so glad I got the votes needed to be able to represent Ward 3,” he said. “It’s just time to get back to work to change some of the things that we need to change in Columbus. I’m just thankful for all the votes that I’ve gotten.”
Tate also thanked her supporters on Facebook Tuesday night.
“I really enjoyed the opportunity of running my campaign and meeting new people. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to pull it off,” she posted. “I wish, my opponent, Rusty Greene, a successful future with Ward 3 and pray he represents us well.”
Bridges could not be reached by The Dispatch by press time.
In Ward 4, independent Pierre Beard leads 417 to 390 over Democrat Marty Turner with affidavits still out.
Neither Beard nor Turner responded to calls from The Dispatch Wednesday.
The Dispatch will report additional results online and in print as they become available.