Saying he didn’t see any way an elections concession could be retracted once it had been given in writing, Judge George Richards ruled against former Charter Review Board candidate Kathy Bolam.
Bolam sued Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent because she said Dent improperly influenced her to concede the District 3 primary race.
The judge disagreed.
“(There was) no pressure, coercion or undue influence,” Richards said after hearing three hours of testimony Oct. 28.
After all the ballots were counted Aug. 24, Bolam trailed her opponent, Adam Miller, by 151 votes. Because that difference was less than 0.5%, state law calls for a mandatory recount unless a candidate concedes in writing.
Dent called Bolam the morning after the election and informed her of those recount rules.
Bolam asked her what that entailed, and Dent told her that the recount would begin Friday morning and would last into Saturday.
Dent also said the chances of picking up more than 10 or 15 votes were slim.
Wanting to get a second opinion, Bolam called Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota County. Gruters agreed that a recall probably would not change the outcome.
So less than two hours after Dent’s phone call, Bolam sent the supervisor of elections an e-mail to concede.
Bolam later said Dent's comments about her staff working the weekend influenced her to drop out of the race.
But after hearing that her supporters were upset at the concession, Bolam wrote back to Dent later that day, saying she changed her mind and wanted to go forward with the recount.
The canvassing board, which oversees the county’s elections, ruled the law did not allow for a candidate to take back a concession once it’s been made in writing.
“I don’t find any wrongdoing on the par of the supervisor of elections or the canvassing board,” he said.
After the ruling, Bolam said she was undecided on whether to appeal.
Dent was relieved, saying: “The judge looked at what the law said.”
Robin Roy can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.