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Olney maintains lead for city council seat after absentee ballots counted

WATERTOWN — Councilman-elect Cliff G. Olney III said he’s ready to take the city in a different direction now that his lead held up for a seat on the City Council.

He’s ending up with a 51-vote win after the Jefferson County Board of Elections counted absentee votes on Monday morning, with Mr. Olney finishing ahead of Michelle Capone.

“It is very much everything is possible now that’s final,” he said after the absentees were counted. “And we’re ready to go in a different direction. It’s a good day for Watertown.”

He had a 73-vote lead going into the absentee count. But Ms. Capone recorded 22 more votes on Monday than Mr. Olney.

Republican election Jude R. Seymour hopes to have the election certified by Thanksgiving.

Mr. Olney will be joining Councilman-elect Patrick J. Hickey and incumbent Lisa A. Ruggiero when the three are sworn into office on Jan. 1.

They will take over as the majority and are expected to be a voting block on major issues.

Mr. Olney acknowledged that he was “relieved” that the election is now over.

“It was always what we could do now, and that’s what I hope,” he said.

Councilwoman Ruggiero said she looks forward to working with Mr. Olney and Mr. Hickey and together with the new makeup of City Council.

“It’s nice to have some finality to the election,” she said.

Mr. Hickey thinks that voters decided that their election is what was best for Watertown.

The race, Mr. Olney said, became a referendum on the mayor.

During the campaign, the three criticized Mayor Smith for a lack of transparency in the way he governed.

Ms. Capone needed to get about 70% of the absentees to win the four-year seat. She came in third with 1,301 votes, while Mr. Olney came in second with 1,352 votes, in unofficial results. Incumbent Lisa A. Ruggiero won reelection to the other four-year seat, accumulating the most votes with 2,120. Another candidate, Benjamin P. Shoen received 821 votes.

For the two-year seat, Mr. Hickey finished with 1,700 votes, while his opponent, Amy Horton had 1,051, in unofficial results.

Both Mr. Hickey and Mr. Olney have run before for elected office. They are both enrolled Democrats. While Mr. Hickey ran an unsuccessful bid for council in 2019, Mr. Olney put his hat in the ring for mayor last year, lost in the primary and ran an unsuccessful write-in campaign.

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