After what has been a whirlwind election season for Denison, the city council canvassed the results of its spring runoff election and officially swore in Rayce “Coach” Guess as the new council member for Place 6. This comes more than a month after the city’s May election resulted in a runoff and a tie for the second spot on the runoff ballot.
“It’s a surreal blessing, a surreal blessing, but it is time to get started and moving forward,” Guess said Tuesday, following his swearing in ceremony. “It has been a long but enlightening process, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
When the final votes were counted in this month’s runoff election, Guess won with 488 votes, or 51 percent. Planning and Zoning Chairman Charles Shearer received 461 votes, or 49 percent of the vote.
The race for Place 6 — an election that saw five candidates throw their hats into the ring — effectively started in January when Janet Gott announced she would be resigning from the seat in order to run for mayor of Denison. Gott, who was unopposed in her mayoral bid, was effectively elected in May, becoming the first female mayor in the city’s history.
With his election, Guess will be fulfilling the final year of Gott’s original term. The seat will once again be up for election in May 2019.
As Place 6 is an at-large seat that represents the entire city, candidates from all districts were eligible to run for the position, resulting in the lone contested Denison race this election cycle. City officials previously said the at-large nature of the position may have contributed to the high number of candidates in the race.
When voters went to the polls in May, no one candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, resulting in a runoff. However, the candidates in the second election were not immediately clear.
While Shearer secured his place on the ballot by taking first place in May, the second place winner was initially too close to call by election officials due to new legislation that requires mail-in ballots received the day after an election be counted. When the final ballots were counted two days later, both Guess and local pharmacist Brian Hander had received the same number of votes in a first for the city.
Under Texas election code, a tie vote is to be resolved by the casting of lots, however the code does not go into detail on how the lots are to be cast. Ultimately, the city offered the candidates their choice of a coin toss or a roll of the dice to determine the winner, with Guess winning the coin toss.
Following the pattern set in May, the results of the June runoff were not immediately clear due to the mail-in ballot rules. Grayson County Election officials said more than 100 ballots, more than four times the difference between the two candidates ballot count, were still out and could be in the mail. However, only 10 ballots were received the following Monday, securing Guess’s victory in the race.
Now that he is seated on the council, Guess said his first priorities will be the city’s senior population, specifically the city’s SNAP center.
“I really have a passion for that senior center,” he said.
Beyond that, Guess said he plans to work with the other council members on whatever might be the most pressing needs at the time throughout his tenure on the council.
The filling the Place 6 seat will also allow the city to move forward with items that were delayed by the vacancy. Following delays to allow the new council member to participated, the city of Denison will hold its annual budget workshop Friday. The retreat is usually held in May but was delayed until late June.
Additionally, filling all seats on the council will help it avoid potentially not having a quorum, especially important for decisions that require a super majority of the votes. Earlier this year, the council was unable to move forward with approval for a zoning request due to a need of six of seven votes in favor due to ordinance regarding items with significant public opposition. During the meeting, two members were absent, which made it impossible for the council to pass the item, and required the applicant to return at the next meeting.
“It is really important that we have a full council,” Gott said. “There have been things that we haven’t had the members to vote on, so it is important that we have everyone on the council and engaged.”