Editor's note: This article has been updated throughout.
Questions of who would be on the ballot during a Denison runoff election were answered Wednesday when Rayce “Coach” Guess won his place in a tie-breaker coin toss. During a special election earlier this month, Guess and Brian Hander tied for second place for a one-year term for the Place 6 City Council seat behind Charles Shearer.
As Shearer did not receive 50 percent of the vote during that election, he will now face Guess in a runoff to be held on June 16. The winner will finish the unexpired council term of Janet Gott, who resigned earlier this year as part of a successful run for mayor.
“It was just an unbelievable ride through the campaign,” Guess said following his victory Wednesday.
Following the initial tie vote, Grayson County election officials conducted an automatic recount that affirmed the tie. Under Texas election code, a tie vote in this situation would be resolved by the casting of lots by the candidates. However, the code does not specify what form the lots are cast.
“As a former history teacher, I find it crazy that that law is still on the books,” Guess said.
Prior to Wednesday’s tie breaker, Guess said he would have preferred a second vote, but noted that another election would cost additional money. Denison officials offered the candidates the choice of either a roll of the dice of a coin toss to determine the second place candidate. However, both candidates would need to agree on the method of breaking the tie.
During Wednesday’s tie breaker, Guess elected to go with the coin toss, but Hander said he would prefer the roll of the dice. In order to resolve this, city officials pulled the method of resolving the tie from a hat, resulting in a coin toss. In a second drawing, city officials determined that Hander would be the one to call the toss. He chose tails.
However, when the coin landed on the carpet of the council chambers, it was George Washington who was looking up, meaning Guess was still in the race.
Hander, a local pharmacist, said he voted with his coworkers on which side of the coin he would call if that ended up being the tie-breaker method. The vote ended in favor of tails.
For his part, Hander said he had no regrets about the campaign and enjoyed his time as a candidate. Not only did he become a first in Denison by being part of the first tie and first runoff in the city’s history, but he also was there when Gott was elected as the first female mayor of Denison, he said.
“It has been super fun to be a part of history,” he said. “It was awesome to play a part in it.”
As he left city hall, Hander said this would definitely not be his last attempt at a council seat.
For her part, Gott joked that she was concerned about both methods of tie breaker. While she said she needed to practice the coin flip, as she had little experience with it, Gott was worried that a roll of the dice could also result in yet another tie.
Officiating Denison’s tie breaker was Gott’s second action as mayor of Denison following Monday’s special council meeting. With Wednesday’s events playing out, Gott downplayed her own victory in becoming the first mayor of Denison.
“Being the first woman mayor is a good storyline, but I come from a generation where almost everything I did in my companies was a first time it had been done by a woman, so it is not new trails for me,” she said. “However, this whole thing was historic.”
Following the coin flip, city officials held a second drawing to determine which name would be listed first on June’s ballot, with Shearer winning to top spot. While not a part of the tie, Shearer said Wednesday’s decision also gave him closure as it let him prepare for the coming month of campaigning. Still, Shearer said the tension during the coin toss was palpable.
“I was thinking the same thing that was likely going through their minds — ‘what has it all come down to,’” Shearer said.