Tupper Lake mayor race tied at end of election night

TUPPER LAKE — The race for Tupper Lake mayor is in a dead heat, with incumbent candidate Paul Maroun and challenger Eric Shaheen holding 371 votes, each, by the end of election night.

This race will be decided by absentee ballots, which the Franklin County Board of Elections will open on Nov. 15.

In the meantime, both candidates, and their supporters, await the results.

Maroun is seeking a fourth term as a third-party candidate. Shaheen, a local contractor, is seeking to bring change to the village as its new mayor.

Absentee ballots

Forty-four of the 66 ballots the county BOE issued to Tupper Lake village voters have been returned, so there are still 20 ballots that could possibly be returned before the deadline. The board will continue to collect absentee ballot returns by mail until seven days after the election.

Franklin County Republican Election Commissioner Tracy Sparks said they’ll likely all be opened on Nov. 15, after a 10-day cross-check period with the state BOE. Franklin County Democratic Commissioner Brandon John Varin said on Tuesday night that this cross-checking is to make sure someone did not vote absentee in one county and in-person in another.

Varin said if, after they count the absentee ballots, the race is still within one-half of a percent, the board will have to manually count all the machine ballot votes by hand to verify them.

Sparks said if there’s a tight race — like this race is — the board will prioritize that race and count it before the others. Varin said this is the closest race in the county this year.

Sparks said she remembers one other race being this close before — again in Tupper Lake — when a number of years ago there was a tight race between Patti Littlefield and Dean Lefebvre for town supervisor.

Too close to call

Shaheen said he was “psyched” when the news came into Lakeview Lanes, where he was hanging out with family and friends on election night. He thought the race would be close. It’s hard to run against a longtime incumbent, he said. He didn’t know it would be this close.

“I just think people are ready, I mean, he’s been there a long time,” Shaheen said.

“It will be a tense two weeks for him, I know that,” he added.

Maroun was caught off guard by how close the vote was. He said he hopes people still know he loves Tupper Lake with his whole heart.

Several developments in this race have caught Maroun off guard. He had to run on the Independence Party line after Shaheen took the Republican and Conservative party nominations at caucuses where Maroun’s supporters were not able to vote, since they signed petitions for Maroun to run on the Independence line.

Maroun said he’s lost elections before, but he is still very hopeful he wins with the absentee ballots. He said he ran again because he believes he still has a lot to contribute to Tupper Lake.

“If I don’t (win), I’m still a county legislator,” Maroun said last week.

Shaheen said he wasn’t sure what his first actions as mayor would be if he wins.

“It’s not over yet,” he said. “Let me see if I become the mayor first.”

“Whichever way this goes, Tupper Lake is on the right path,” Maroun said.

Maroun noted that if Shaheen wins, he will still need to get three votes from the rest of the board to make changes.

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 said he likely lost votes because of his enforcement of the state’s public health mandates throughout the pandemic, something Shaheen cited as his reason for running against him.

“I know people are mad at me because I enforced the masking, but nobody died here in Tupper Lake,” Maroun said. “People are mad at me because they think I took their Constitutional rights away.”

He also said his lengthy time as mayor can work against him. It’s a long time for people to get mad at him for one thing or another, he said.

“The years add up on you,” he said.

Appointment to board

Clint Hollingsworth resigned from the village board this week and was elected as the Tupper Lake town supervisor on Tuesday’s election. Trustee Ron LaScala is not running for another term. Trustee Leon Leblanc was reelected on Tuesday and David “Haji” Maroun was elected to return to the board. But there’s still one vacant seat open on the board. Paul Maroun said he will appoint someone to fill out the rest of the year Hollingsworth’s term still has on the board next month, win or lose.

At an election night party Hollingsworth hosted at his shop — the former village fire station — he said he hopes Maroun wins, because they’ve worked together on the village board for a long time and he likes working with the current mayor.

This is a breaking news story. More information will be added to this story as it becomes available.


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