After an extremely close primary election, two Democratic mayoral candidates said Wednesday they were concerned about the unusually low voter turnout and plan to shift their campaigns into overdrive for the runoff election.
The primary Tuesday ended with a difference of only 23 votes between the top two candidates, incumbent Mayor Les Fillingame and Councilman-at-large Mike Favre. They will face each other in a runoff election May 16.
Counting absentee ballots, Fillingame had 1,032 votes to Favre’s 1,009, but surprisingly lost in his home Ward 5 — Favre grabbed about 60 percent of the vote there.
The incumbent, nevertheless, said he felt good about his campaign and is confident he will win the runoff.
“We knew it was going to be extremely close,” Fillingame said in an interview Wednesday. “We’re concerned about the level of turnout. We think that a lot of people who support us have not voted yet, so we’re going to work on that.”
Favre and Fillingame also faced candidate Rachael Ramsey, who collected 166 votes, bringing the total votes cast to 2,207. Past mayoral elections, both primary and general, have typically turned out about 3,000 voters.
Favre shared Fillingame’s concern about the turnout.
“We have to get more people out to the polls,” Favre said. “Every vote counts. That’s their voice. It’s no different from the governor’s race or the president’s race.”
On Wednesday, Fillingame announced a change of strategy for his campaign, saying he’d like to have an open debate with Favre.
“I’m throwing out the invitation,” Fillingame said.
Any debate would have to be organized quickly as the runoff election is less than two weeks away.
Fillingame said he hadn’t yet discussed the idea with Favre, but in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Favre didn’t sound too keen on a debate. He pointed out the candidates had participated in open forums last week.
“I don’t have a lot of days off or vacation days to take,” Favre said. “On the days I am off, I’ll be on the streets, knocking on doors.”
Unlike Fillingame, whose office is a full-time city position, Favre and other city council members serve part time and have full-time jobs in the private sector. Favre is operations manager at Calgon Carbon.
As for Favre’s campaign strategy, there will be few changes made, he said.
“I feel real good,” Favre said. “I just got to get (residents) back out to vote and get some more out to vote. I’ll start back hopefully tomorrow going door to door and will continue until 7 o’clock the night of the runoff.”