Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — Jackie Smilinich has secured her position as the Second Ward Councilwoman after two weeks of waiting for the Erie County Board of Election’s final count of 31 absentee votes.
“It’s been a long process, but I did all I could,” she said Tuesday after the final canvass downtown at the elections office. “It will sink in later.”
The Democrat and former school board president was ahead of Republican Jon Juliano by just one vote after Election Day. But she increased that lead with the assistance of 21 absentee votes, while Juliano only accumulated another 10.
The count, which Erie County Board of Elections officials will soon sign, was 437-425.
Juliano, a political newcomer and accounts receivable employee, said Tuesday’s canvass was stressful, but that he is encouraged by his first run at a political seat.
“The nerves were going, but I was optimistic,” he said. “It was a good time, and I plan on coming back in two years.”
Smilinich said her biggest goal is to develop the city’s downtown corridor and to create a development agency — an initiative that other elected Democratic candidates identified as well.
She also noted that she will not vote to support the Little League Drive project, a plan to build 53 homes in an area of Veterans Park. Smilinich has voiced her opposition to the developer’s plans to classify the homes under the state’s condominium status, which will result in a tax abatement for the new homeowners.
In turn, Juliano and the other Republican candidates argued that under the contract, the city would not have to pay $1.8 million for necessary infrastructure improvements at the site, and that Tonawanda would only benefit from the increased tax revenue.
All attorneys and candidates agreed on the count Tuesday, and Smilinich said she is confident that the Republicans will not challenge the final decision in court. Two years ago, the Third Ward candidate Augustine Beyer was ahead of Councilman Richard Slisz by just one vote until Slisz challenged the count.
After a prolonged court battle that made it the last election in the entire state to be decided, both sides agreed to sit down and hand count the 870 votes. The inspection revealed that one vote for Slisz had somehow gone completely uncounted, while another voter incorrectly circled Slisz’s bubble instead of filling it in. With two more votes to his name, Slisz won the seat in February.
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.