Challenger petitions for a recount of votes in water district election

Posted Monday, May. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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John Basham, who ran unsuccessfully in a contentious Tarrant Regional Water District Board race this month, has requested that the ballots in the election be recounted.

Water district spokesman Chad Lorance said that Basham turned in his paperwork Monday and that the district will forward the request to the Tarrant County elections office.

Basham did not return phone calls from the Star-Telegram seeking comment, but he tweeted that he had submitted the paperwork.

Basham came in fourth among seven candidates who were vying for three places on the board. Longtime incumbent and board President Vic Henderson beat Basham for the final spot on the board by 90 votes. Henderson had 7,525 votes to Basham’s 7,435, according to unofficial returns.

The candidate in fifth place, veteran member Hal Sparks, was three votes behind Basham.

“He has a right to ask for a recount if he thinks there is a problem with the vote tally,” Henderson said.

He added that the votes from the May election will be canvassed at 9:30 this morning during the board’s regular meeting.

A deadline for review

Tarrant County Elections Administrator Steve Raborn said the water district has two days to review the paperwork before submitting it to the county.

He said the recount probably won’t be done until next week not only because of the Memorial Day holiday but also because it will take a while to count all the ballot boxes from the water district election. A total of 21,194 ballots were cast in the election.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve done a recount as large as the water district,” Raborn said.

Contentious campaigns

Basham’s campaign made the usually quiet water board election into one of the hottest races on the ballot.

Basham received over $200,000 in campaign contributions from two wealthy Dallas landowners who oppose a major pipeline the water district is building to bring water from Lake Palestine to the Metroplex because it may cut across their land. The pipeline is needed because of rapid population growth, officials said.

Basham and two other challengers, Mary Kelleher and Timothy Nold, ran as a slate called BNK against the three incumbents on the ballot: Henderson, Sparks and Jack Stevens.

They criticized the incumbents in slick campaign fliers for buying a luxury helicopter and owning a hunting lease that they could use. They also questioned whether the board had properly approved the purchase of the land needed for the pipeline.

The incumbents fired back with robocalls from civic leaders and full-page ads in the newspaper saying the challengers’ accusations were false and erroneous.

In early voting, it appeared that the challengers might pull off an upset.

Kelleher, the top vote getter, garnered 21 percent of the votes cast before Election Day. Basham was in second with 17 percent, and Nold third with 15 percent.

But on May 11, election day, incumbents Stevens and Henderson got 19 percent and 18 percent of the vote respectively, while Basham slipped to 13 percent and Nold to 11 percent.

In the end, Kelleher got the most votes with 8,942. Stevens came in second with 7,884, reports from the Tarrant County elections office say.

Nold came in sixth with 6,464, and the fourth challenger, Timothy Herring, came in seventh with 2,864, according to unofficial returns.

Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696 Twitter: @fwstliz

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