LEWISTON — City officials conducted a recount of the Ward 4 School Committee race Thursday, and newcomer Benjamin Martin was declared the winner.

Longtime Chairman Jim Handy lost his seat to Martin by 24 votes, 597-573, on Nov. 3. The following day, Handy requested the recount.

On Thursday, Handy picked up only one vote in the recount, and Martin was declared the winner.

Martin said the recount was an unnecessary political antic, and he believed his campaign was won when the committee decided it would begin televising its meetings live so the public could follow along.

“It’s unfortunate this turned into a political show because ultimately this isn’t about politics, it’s been about the future of our children and how the community as a whole is treated at public meetings, such as School Committee meetings,” Martin said. “It’s unfortunate the city wasted its time with this whole recount process when we’ve been using electronic ballots now for 20 years and the margin of error is what it is.”

City Clerk Kathy Montejo convened the recount at 10 a.m. It was staffed with four recount assistants and four recount teams of two people each, one person on each team representing Martin and the second representing Handy.

The first task was separating the Ward 4 ballots from others cast at Longley Elementary School and narrowing the count to only Ward 4 School Committee ballots.

Any ballots that had Handy and Martin checked off were set aside, as were ballots that had neither candidate marked and those that had write-in candidates named.

Martin and Handy attended the recount, seated in a public area blocked off from the recount teams.

Handy formally announced his bid for re-election in September, citing his leadership and the “knowledge I have of federal, state and local educational policy will be essential at this pivotal time.”

Handy served 18 years on the School Committee, nine of them as chairman.

During his time on the committee, Handy opposed a Gulen-run charter school that was seeking approval from the state. He also opposed an attempt to legalize marijuana in Lewiston because he felt it would be detrimental to the city’s children. And when Lewiston gambling casino proponents suggested a temporary facility might be located near a Lewiston elementary school, Handy spoke against it.

Handy said he has helped and supported a number of programs for students, including a partnership with Head Start for pre-kindergarten, establishing programs for children with autism, expanding life skills classrooms, reducing class sizes and expanding learning opportunities at Lewiston Regional Technical Center.

When Martin, who has a child in the Lewiston school system, announced he was running, he said he’d bring new blood to the committee. He cited disappointments with the school department, including the way the proficiency-based diploma was rolled out last year and overcrowded elementary schools.

Handy said Thursday that he was proud for taking part in a “forthright and honest campaign.” He also said his years of service on the committee were a source of pride as well.

“I can take pride in the fact that I’ve been able to have a positive impact on the children and families of our community that I love,” Handy said. “I look forward to future opportunities to continue to serve the people of Lewiston.”

Sun Journal State Politics Editor Scott Thistle contributed to this report.


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