In what may go down in local history as one of the most heated political campaigns in the rural Saratoga County town of Ballston, final results in the race for a town council slot were equally dramatic: incumbent Republican Mary Beth Hynes has unofficially nosed out her opponent Democrat Patti Southworth by just six votes.
Board of elections representatives said the results are unofficial because one mail-in ballot was set aside due to a signature that did not match the voter registration card. However, with Hynes ahead by six, that vote won't sway the outcome. The results will be deemed official on Monday, Nov. 20.
Eight days after Election Day, the Saratoga County board of elections spent three nail-biting hours counting 147 absentee ballots in front of a roomful of candidate supporters and detractors.
The warm, heavily lit basement office had the atmosphere of a police interrogation room. The ballots were shuffled, and then called out individually without voters' names announced. People jotted notes or counting on their fingers when they weren't nervously drumming them on tables and chairs.
In a campaign marred by personal and very public attacks, Hynes took the news with a look of visible relief.
This is a tremendous feeling, said Hynes.
"It wasn't the mandate I'd hoped for, but I value the results. It's been so incredibly difficult for months. My goal now is to represent people who voted for me, and change the minds of those who didn't."
Patti Southworth was not in the large crowd gathered for the count Wednesday afternoon.
"She's at work," said Southworth's husband and Democratic Party Chairman Patrick Southworth. "Democrats do work for a living."
While wishing Hynes well in her council seat, Dan Tagliento, a Southworth supporter, summed his reactions up in a few words.
"The voters have spoken, but they whispered," said Tagliento.