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Wagner considers recount in loss to Hafen

If he can round up enough money to pay for it, Henderson City Council candidate Thomas Wagner said he will seek a recount of his razor-thin loss last week to incumbent Andy Hafen.

The Henderson City Council on Tuesday certified the election results, which show Hafen winning a sixth term by 169 votes.

Wagner, or anyone else who wishes to challenge that outcome, has until Friday to file for a recount.

As he headed out to take down his campaign signs Tuesday afternoon, Wagner said he is "95 percent sure" a recount would occur.

"At no cost to the taxpayers, I have to come up with the money to do that myself," he said. "I am committed to making sure within the next three days that I will drum up enough money."

Wagner said the Henderson City Clerk’s Office initially gave him a cost estimate of between $1,500 and $3,500.

City Clerk Monica Simmons said her office has since settled on $1,600, a figure based on the $200 per precinct Clark County election officials have charged for recounts in the past.

Under the process set forth by state law, the recount will begin with a hand count of eight election precincts of Wagner’s choosing.

Simmons said her office must complete the hand count within five days of Wagner’s request.

If the results differ from the official election totals by more than 1 percent, all of the votes cast in the Ward 2 City Council race will have to be counted again by hand.

Simmons does not expect that to happen. "I have faith in the integrity of the process. I wouldn’t expect it (the election outcome) to be any different," she said.

Hafen, who has served on the City Council since 1987, had a lead of nearly 10 percentage points when the results of early and mail-in voting were posted just after the polls closed on April 3. But when the results from election day were added a few hours later, Hafen’s margin shrunk to about 1.3 percentage points.

Bradley Mayer, field director for Wagner’s campaign, acknowledged that recounts very rarely change the outcome of elections. "But it’s such a close margin. Anything can happen once you toss the ball in the air," he said. "Mail ballots get counted by hand. Mistakes are made. We’re all human."

A statement issued by the Hafen campaign described the six-term incumbent as "in high spirits and confident" upon hearing about the promised recount.

"We have a strong core of supporters in this community who appreciate what we, as a city, have accomplished over the past two decades," Hafen said in the statement. "They believe in us and they believe in me. And I am grateful for that."

Hafen’s campaign manager, Matt Higginson, was less diplomatic.

"This is an interesting decision by the Wagner campaign. It is a rare occurrence that a defeated challenger would call to concede victory on election night and one week later change his mind about the conclusiveness of those results," Higginson said in the statement. "Essentially, Wagner is saying, ‘I was comfortable accepting defeat on election night, but now I’m not so sure.’ "

Wagner said he sees no connection between his recount push and his decision to call and congratulate Hafen on election night.

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