Brenda Patterson, who lost her bid for reelection to businessman Ken Ambrose by 18 votes in the original count, sought the recount at the urging of supporters, but was reconsidering her request Tuesday, said Upshur County Pct. 1 Comm. James Crittenden. Mrs. Patterson could not be reached for comment Monday or Tuesday.
Ambrose, who said he knew nothing about the recount until a representative of The Mirror contacted him Monday afternoon, blasted Mrs. Patterson’s request for it, saying Tuesday that “the whole thing stinks.” He charged that it was authorized through the county’s Republican executive committee without notification to his wife, Linda, who is a committee member, nor to another member, Chrissy Fincher.
Crittenden initially told The Mirror Tuesday that the recount was set for between 8 and 9 a.m. Thursday in the county courtroom at the county courthouse. But he called back shortly after noon to report that Hart InterCivic, the computer firm supervising the election, could not do the recount Thursday and that Mrs. Patterson was thus unsure whether she would seek it after all.
Crittenden said he was among Mrs. Patterson’s allies who urged her to seek another count because of concern that election tabulation machinery might have overlooked some votes in the contest. He said funds were raised from her supporters to pay Hart for the recount.
Crittenden cited the “number of undervotes in that particular race” as a reason for another tabulation. Although the County Clerk’s office said a total of 2,044 persons voted in the GOP runoff, which had multiple other races on the ballot, the total number of votes in the Ambrose-Patterson race was only 1,944, showing exactly 100 voters cast no ballot in that contest.
Ambrose led in the original count, 981-963, after a bitter campaign in which Mrs. Patterson’s supporters accused him of possible ethics violations, charged he had filed for bankruptcy, and questioned his business background. On election night, he said the criticism was not necessary.
Mrs. Patterson had led in the March 2 primary, in which Mrs. Fincher drew enough votes to throw the chairwoman and Ambrose into a runoff.
Crittenden noted that a recount in the March 2 GOP runoff for County Clerk had shown three of the four candidates gaining votes. “My concern is that there are some machines out there that are not quite as sensitive as (far as) picking up check marks or light marks” in the boxes on the ballot by candidates’ names. (The ballot instructs voters to completely black in the boxes.)
“We do not feel that anything was done inappropriately in the election,” Crittenden added. “This is all based on the recent recount of the County Clerk’s race (which turned up additional votes from the original count)...We just feel that there could be...votes missed by the machines.”
Crittenden said he understood Mrs. Patterson filed for the recount Thursday after party members requested it. It was not her idea initially, he said.
The commissioner said $1,940 was raised from her supporters to pay Hart for recount expenses. But Crittenden said he did not know how much recount clerks would be paid in addition to that.
A representative of The Mirror had received an email Monday afternoon from a Patterson supporter saying a recount was scheduled in the election.
Ambrose meantime left The Mirror’s representative a voice mail Tuesday morning saying, “Apparently, there is going to be a recount in the election. I have not been notified yet that there’s going to be a recount. They’re supposed to give me a reasonable notice, but I would suppose that that’s not going to happen.”
“They just keep on keeping on,” he said of Mrs. Patterson and her supporters. “More of the same. Same ol’ same ol. Here they go again.”
When The Mirror returned the call, Ambrose said his wife had called the County Clerk’s office Tuesday morning and been told that Hart Intercivic had contacted that office about a recount.
He added that the same persons urging Mrs. Patterson to seek a recount had advised County Clerk Peggy LaGrone not to request one when she finished only eight votes short of making the runoff in the original count in her race for re-election. (The recount requested by Ms. LaGrone, an adversary of Mrs. Patterson, showed she finished seven votes short.)
Although Mrs. Patterson finished 10 votes further behind than Ms. LaGrone, the chairwoman’s backers “don’t seem to think there’s a reason for Brenda Patterson to give up...I have no idea what these people are up to,” Ambrose said.
He said his wife and Mrs. Fincher would be his poll watchers at the recount. His comments to The Mirror were made before Crittenden announced that Mrs. Patterson was unsure she would seek it.
Ambrose also said Tuesday he “was sent a letter demanding an organizational meeting by five of the cabal (Patterson supporters on the county’s Republican executive committee).” Ambrose said the request from “the Patterson posse” was “completely out of line...Nobody, including me, has the power to do anything till after May third,” when he would take office if he is declared the winner.