Maroun wins Tupper mayor race

Tupper Lake village Mayor Paul Maroun inspects absentee ballot envelopes in the Franklin County Board of Elections office on Monday before they were opened and secured his reelection by a 16-vote margin. The board allows candidates to inspect the mail-in ballot envelopes for irregularities which would invalidate them. Maroun found none. “If I didn’t do, this you’d wonder why I came all the way down here,” he said. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

MALONE — Paul Maroun has won reelection as mayor of Tupper Lake against challenger Eric Shaheen by a margin of 16 votes, unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections show.

The two candidates ended election night on Nov. 2 tied, with exactly 371 votes apiece.

On Monday, the BOE opened 47 absentee and affidavit ballots in its Malone office. Maroun was there to watch. Democratic Commissioner Brandon John Varin read out the totals — 31 votes for Maroun, who ran on the Independence Party line, and 15 for Shaheen, who ran on the Republican and Conservative party lines. There was one write-in vote.

Maroun said he’d spent the last two weeks contemplating the possibility of a loss. He breathed a sigh of relief, and several others in the packed room, in the basement of the county courthouse, congratulated him.

This leaves the unofficial vote totals at 402 votes for Maroun and 386 for Shaheen.

Varin said the totals are still unofficial because the race came within 20 votes. That triggers a mandatory hand count of the ballots.

Republican Election Commissioner Tracy Sparks said they’ll count these ballots by hand after all the rest of the county’s absentee ballots are accounted for — likely later this week. But Varin said the totals are unlikely to change. He said the only reason would be if a ballot was invalidated for errant markings, which they checked for before they ran the ballots through a counting machine.

One of the ballots couldn’t be read by the machine. Varin said this was because of the way it was folded. This ballot will be counted by hand with the rest, but wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

“No ill will”

Shaheen, a local contractor, was seeking to bring change to the village. He said on election night that if he didn’t win he still had a business to run and family to support. Shaheen couldn’t be reached by deadline on Monday.

Maroun was glad he won and thanked the voters who voted for him. He said he wants to keep Tupper Lake on the course he’s set in 11 years as its mayor.

There’s a lot the village has on its plate now. The fate of the Big Tupper Ski Area is in limbo, but there’s possible paths forward being discussed. There’s a housing crunch as people move into the area or buy second homes during the pandemic. Rising prices of goods and labor, in part because of the pandemic, have caused village expenses to rise. There are ongoing water quality issues with the village’s new wells. And the coronavirus, including the highly-contagious delta variant, is spreading faster than ever in this area.

Maroun also needs to appoint a new village board member soon, as Trustee Clint Hollingsworth resigned to take a position as town supervisor.

Maroun said it was hard to run as an independent candidate. For 30 years he’s always run on the Republican and Conservative lines. Shaheen swept the Republican and Conservative party nominations at caucuses where some of Maroun’s supporters were not able to vote, since they signed petitions for Maroun to run on the Independence line.

Maroun said Monday this was a mistake he will not repeat.

He had never been in a race this close, he said.

If he lost, Maroun said he was prepared to work with Shaheen, if Shaheen wanted his help.

“I have no ill will towards my opponent,” Maroun said.

Maroun is a Franklin County legislator, too.

Maroun said if he had lost, Tuesday’s village board meeting would have been his last.

“Continue on the course”

Now, Maroun said he plans to “continue on the course” in his sixth mayoral term.

He said there are several projects he still wants to work on in Tupper Lake — the Oval Wood Dish factory building renovation into apartments and commercial space, the village-owned park on Raquette Pond, the continuation of the Riverpigs baseball team and he still wants to bring more hotels to town.

Maroun acknowledged he’s not always popular among all his constituents. He said there’s a lot of reasons in a decade for people get mad at him.

“It’s hard to stay in office this long,” he said.

But he hoped to heal some of those sore spots in the coming years — specifically naming street paving projects as a goal.

Maroun said he knows he lost votes for his enforcing of the state’s mask mandate during the coronavirus pandemic, but said he stands by that decision.

“The first and most important job as mayor is to protect the citizens of the village of Tupper Lake,” he said.

He pointed out that Tupper Lake is in the midst of a large outbreak of the virus, with 50 people testing positive for the virus in the town, as of Franklin County Public Health data reported Friday. He said when more people catch the virus, aside from the health concerns, it creates gaps in the community’s volunteer and professional groups as people quarantine.

The count

The Tupper Lake village race was the first race the BOE counted on Tuesday because it was the closest in the county — a dead heat.

Before the ballots were counted, the room was filled with conversation and nervous laughs. Maroun remarked that the room was “somber.”

Afterward, the mood in the room remained the same — the board still had to open the absentee ballots for the Franklin County judge race between Republican Elizabeth Crawford and Democrat Craig Carriero to determine who won that race.

Maroun was glad he won.

Maroun was still handing out pens branded with his name as he waited for the ballots to be counted Tuesday. He is known to say “every day is a campaign day.” Though the election was over, and he was contemplating the possibility of a loss, he was still campaigning.

“It’s unending,” he said.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said Maroun’s upcoming term would be his fourth. It will be his sixth. The Enterprise regrets the error.


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