LANSING, N.Y. — It may have taken a couple of weeks, but for Lansing town board candidate Joe Wetmore (D, G), the wait was worth it. The challenger was able to defeat two-term incumbent Lansing town board member Robert Cree (R, I) for a seat on the Lansing town board, by no more than four votes.

Since election night, it has long been clear that of the four candidates running for two positions, one, Doug Dake (R, I), had clearly won another term on the board by finishing with the most votes, while challenger Walaa Moharem-Horan (D) had lost, finishing with the lowest number of votes. The battle had always been to determine who was second and third, with the difference being a four-year term on the town board.

At the close of election night, Cree led Wetmore by twelve votes, with about two hundred absentee and affidavit votes received by mail by election day, and yet to be counted. When all those were tallied up, Wetmore had pulled ahead by a mere two votes. Votes from military installations and postmarked by election day had until Monday to arrive, and Republican and Democratic election inspectors reviewed disputed ballots. Both inspectors agreed to remove two ballots for whom the intended vote wasn’t clear, but with the others reviewed, two were for Cree, but four were for Wetmore, giving Wetmore a four vote lead.

Although three ballots remain contested, even if all were ruled in favor of Cree, it would mean that Wetmore would still win by one vote. Therefore, Wetmore has been declared the victor in this down-to-the-wire election.

Not only does this narrow election margin decide a town board seat, it also decides the political orientation of the Lansing town board – before the election, the board consisted of two Democrats (Andra Benson and Katrina Binkewicz, whose seats are up for vote in 2019) and two Republicans, Cree and Dake. Add in town supervisor Ed LaVigne (R), and the board was a 3-2 Republican majority. As a result of Wetmore’s victory, the orientation of the board changes to a 3-2 Democratic majority. In Lansing, this may have major implications, given that issues like zoning features in the Comprehensive Plan and the decision to hire a full-time town planner have split along partisan lines.

If there’s anything this tight race goes to show, it’s that every vote matters. The final vote tallies will be certified by the county next Tuesday, and Wetmore will take his seat in January.

Correction: Cree is a two-term incumbent, not a three-term incumbent. The Voice regrets the error.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.