Two things became official on Monday: (1) Erik Sten squeaked past the 50%-plus-one requirement needed to avoid a runoff against Ginny Burdick in November, and (2) Sten's former publicly funded opponent, Emilie Boyles, is very, very screwed.
Just hours after county officials certified Sten's win, a group of about 125 of his supporters and campaign volunteers gathered at the Lucky Lab in southeast to celebrate. It was an appropriately informal affair, and Sten refrained from making any speeches. Instead, he spent a couple of hours having one-on-one conversations with his supporters.
It was the celebration the campaign missed on Election Day. That night—three weeks ago—the election results showed that Sten was two to three percentage points below 50 percent, meaning there would be a runoff. Instead of celebrating an outright victory (which many of his supporters expected), Sten & Co. were forced to "celebrate" the prospect of another six months of campaigning against Burdick. It wasn't until the next morning that the county released numbers showing Sten at just a hair above 50 percent. According to his now-former campaign manager, Jennifer Yocom, the ultra-slim margin kept everyone on their toes until this week.
Yocom now gets a few days off before starting her new gig—working in Sten's city hall office. Her exact position there is still shaping up, but it will have something to do with translating the campaign's momentum—on issues like small business and affordable housing—into actual city policies.
As for Boyles, state hearings officer David Gerstenfeld upheld the penalties and decertification handed down by the city auditor. During the hearing last Wednesday, May 31, Boyles tried to say her campaign stayed within the "spirit" of Voter-Owned Elections by bringing in a candidate and volunteers from way, way outside the political mainstream. Unfortunately for Boyles, she was less successful at staying within the law itself.
Gerstenfeld ruled that all five of Boyles' penalties should stand. This means that Boyles has to return $144,905 in city money and pay $14,000 in penalties, plus 12 percent interest. And she only has 60 days to do it.
Given that she had to transfer the deed for her mobile home to her 16-year-old daughter and repeatedly testified that property owners wouldn't lease her space because of her nightmarish credit history, the city should probably hold off on celebrating the return of its cash.
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