Election Day likely signaled the beginning of a new era in Beachwood. At the end of the night on Nov. 7, City Council President Martin S. Horwitz had received more votes than incumbent Mayor Merle S. Gorden, who has served in that role since 1995.
According to final, unofficial results from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, Horwitz received 1,590 votes, or 37.7 percent of the votes, to 1,553 votes for Gorden, or 36.8 percent. Beachwood School Board president Mitchel Luxenburg came in third with 1,076 votes, or 25.5 percent.
However, there may be more votes yet to count.
A board of elections spokeswoman told the Cleveland Jewish News on Nov. 8 that 3,330 provisonal ballots and an unknown number of absentee ballots across the county were still to be counted. The spokeswoman was unsure whether any of those votes would be from Beachwood, and it was not known when these ballots would be counted.
Absentee ballots needed to be postmarked by Nov. 6 but were not required to be received by Election Day.
Final, official results will be certified by the board of elections Nov. 28.
Despite the narrow vote count separating the two candidates, the race doesn’t currently qualify for an automatic recount.
In Ohio, a recount is automatically triggered when the difference between votes doesn’t exceed one half of 1 percent (or 0.50 percent). As of Nov. 8, the difference between the votes was 0.88 percent.
Due to the uncertainty surrounding outstanding ballots and the fact that only 37 votes separates them, neither Horwitz nor Gorden wanted to comment on victory or concession.
“This has been a long and exciting election season,” Horwitz said in a statement provided to the Cleveland Jewish News on Nov. 7, before all precincts were reported. “I am grateful for the support of our community. At this point, the result of the mayoral race is promising but uncertain. I look forward to receiving the final result in the coming weeks.”
Multiple attempts to reach Horwitz for further comment on Nov. 8 were unsuccessful.
Gorden, who was seeking his sixth term, told the CJN that he reached out to the board of elections the morning of Nov. 8 and asked what the next steps will be given that the vote totals are close. He was told nothing could be done until the ballots are certified by the board, he said.
“Until the results are certified, I prefer not to make any comments,” Gorden told the CJN.
Luxenburg did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Should those unofficial results hold, Horwitz will vacate his council seat on Jan. 1, 2018, when he is sworn in as mayor. Council will have 45 days to select his successor, a procedure not set forth in the charter. Whomever council selects will serve the remainder of Horwitz’s term, which ends Dec. 31, 2019, and a new council president will be elected by a council majority.
During his campaign, Horwitz cited congestion on the city’s busiest roads at peak times as a key issue, and touted that city council – with him serving as president – decreased the mayor’s salary by more than $20,000.
Horwitz also said that during his time on council, he researched other Ohio cities to learn about their policies regarding a mayor’s “vacation pay, on meals, on tickets, on other things that the mayor was paid,” which eventually led to change in Beachwood.
“I was able to get council to basically eliminate a lot of those perks because no other city did it,” he said during the “CJN Inside Politics: Beachwood Mayoral Debate” on Sept. 25.
Gorden first took office when former Mayor Harvey Friedman stepped down in 1995 due to health issues. He has been a Beachwood resident since 1959, and was previously a city council president, council member and volunteer firefighter. He was officially elected to the office in 1997. In 2013, Gorden received 59 percent of the vote and was re-elected to a fifth term over challenger Brian Linick. He is the longest serving mayor of Beachwood.
In a 2015 interview with the Cleveland Jewish News commemorating Beachwood’s 100th anniversary, Gorden highlighted Beachwood’s strong economic viability during his tenure. He counted the U.S. headquarters of Eaton Corp. and University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center coming to Beachwood among his successes.
Staff Reporter Amanda Koehn contributed to this report
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Publisher’s Notes: Martin S. Horwitz is the father of Gayle Horwitz, a member of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company Board of Directors.