College Park city officials, caught off guard by two tie votes in Tuesday's election, began gearing up yesterday for another attempt at electing a mayor.
Two-term incumbent Alvin Kushner and challenger V. Charles Donnelly both said that they are prepared to begin campaigning again for the $200-a-month, part-time job.
"Only in your wildest imagining would you have 2,586 voters go out and vote for two candidates and have it end up in a tie," a still-baffled Donnelly said.
Election officials of the 24,315-resident city added 58 absentee ballots to Tuesday's tally to come up with a 1,293 to 1,293 deadlock.
City Council candidates Barry E. Wood and Sherill Murray also tied with 193 votes each for the 8th District seat.
"We never envisioned a single tie in College Park, let alone two," Kushner said.
Kushner and county elections administrator Robert Antonetti said the city will probably hold a new election; the city charter does not say what should happen in such cases.
City Attorney Morris Topf told council members at an informal work session last night that a special election should be scheduled if certified voting results confirm the unofficial tallies.
That election could be held as early as Nov. 26, but council members said it should be held before Dec. 10, the date now scheduled for the swearing-in of the new elected officials.
The council will meet Tuesday to vote on whether to authorize the election.
The Maryland constitution does not specifically address the question of how to break a tie in local elections held every two years.
But in the past, municipalities have relied on a state law that calls for a new contest in elections held every four years.
"In the 15 years I've been here, this has happened only two times in municipal elections: once in Glenarden and now in College Park," said Antonetti, who also serves as president of the Maryland Association of Elections Officials.
Last spring, Glenarden was forced to hold two runoff elections when Robert M. Blue and Viveca Jones tied in their race for a Town Council seat.
A one-point victory for Jones was challenged in court by Blue after it was discovered that former state senator Tommie Broadwater had voted.
Broadwater, who served 4 1/2 months in prison on a food stamp fraud conviction in 1984, was still on probation at the time and technically ineligible to vote.
Yesterday, Kushner lamented, "I had planned to take a short period to really breathe. I think we're going to go through the whole campaign again."
Donnelly, an inveterate door-knocker, said he has already begun reorganizing his campaign effort, hoping this time that it does not rain when Election Day rolls around.
"We made it to 95 percent of the doors," he said. "This gives me an opportunity to go back to the people who were not home."