College Park Mayor Alvin J. Kushner, whose bid for reelection ended in a rare tie vote Nov. 5, bested his opponent by 279 votes yesterday to win his third term in office.
After the outcome was announced, V. Charles Donnelly, the lawyer who had challenged Kushner, blamed his loss on "character assassination" by Kushner's supporters after the runoff campaign began.
Unofficial results tabulated at the College Park Municipal Center last night gave Kushner a 1,529-to-1,250-vote victory over Donnelly. The tabulation of the 167 absentee ballots mailed to voters cannot change the outcome. In November, Kushner and Donnelly tied with 1,293 each.
The mayor's job that Kushner, a 58-year-old lawyer for the Internal Revenue Service, will continue to hold, pays $200 a month. The term is for two years.
Kushner said he won because "some of the people started to become aware of the differences between the two candidates." That recognition, his supporters said, was aided by two campaign handouts he printed that attacked Donnelly's fitness for office.
Donnelly, 42, who also printed a widely distributed cartoon booklet criticizing Kushner's administration, accused the mayor of a series of unfair attacks. "It does prove that negative campaigning is effective," he said.
The College Park City Council scheduled a runoff election for the mayor's race and one council race last month. County election officials said they could recall only one other tie vote in a municipal election in Prince George's. That occurred during a council race in Glenarden last spring.
The increased voter turnout for yesterday's runoff clearly benefited Kushner, especially in his home district, where he received more votes and Donnelly significantly less.
Kushner supporters, Democratic state central committeeman James Rosapepe said, were "energized" for the new election.
"In the first one, there was overconfidence on Kushner's side," he said. "We made many more calls and many more doors were knocked on this time."
Kushner supporters, some of whom wore yellow "Sorry Charlie" buttons, whooped with delight when the tally was announced. Kushner shook Donnelly's hand briefly and walked away.
The mayoral campaign had grown increasingly bitter in recent weeks as Donnelly and Kushner accused each other of underhanded tactics. In one case, Kushner charged that University of Maryland fraternity and sorority members bought votes by offering "beer passes" to students in order to persuade them to vote. The passes enabled the students to go to the head of the line outside a popular College Park bar.
Donnelly denied that he had played any role in the pass episode and in turn accused Kushner of trying to "muddle up" the campaign.
Issues of student housing, Metro construction and public accountability were not addressed by the Kushner administration, Donnelly said.
"Just because I'm not the one sitting up there, these issues are not going to disappear," Donnelly said. "He didn't like the issues being raised."
In the other runoff, the District 8 City Council race, Barry E. Wood defeated Sherrill Murray by 225 to 190. They originally tied with 193 votes each.