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Fayetteville Councilman Jones wants recount in District 3 race with Benavente

Political newcomer holds six-vote edge over incumbent; recount set Thursday


Fayetteville City Councilman Antonio Jones has requested a recount in the District 3 election in which political newcomer Mario Benavente leads him by only six votes in the latest tally, an elections official said Monday.

Jones made the formal request on Friday, said Angie Amaro, interim director of the Cumberland County Board of Elections.

The recount is scheduled at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Board of Elections Office, said Amaro. That’s just nine hours before the winners of the July 26 election are scheduled to be sworn in at 6 p.m.

The recount will be open to the public. The board's offices are at 227 Fountainhead Lane in Fayetteville.

With the addition of absentee ballots after a canvass on Friday, each candidate received four more votes apiece to make the certified tally 1,016 votes for Benavente to 1,010 for Jones. Benavente maintained the six-point edge that was the difference in the Election Day count.

For a non-statewide election in North Carolina, a candidate has the right to request a recount if the difference between the candidates is not more than 1% of the total votes cast, according to the state recount law.

Jones did not immediately respond to phone messages left Monday morning.

The recount request had to be made in writing, and the Board of Elections must have received it by 5 p.m. on the first business day following the canvass.

That would have been Monday.

“We have a recount scheduled for Thursday at 9 a.m.,” Amaro said. “We’ll just recount the ballots in that district along with the absentees, provisionals and one-stop (early voting).”

On Friday, Benavente said he was confident that the final count will confirm his win.

"We're long past the era of the hanging chad,” he said, referring to the delayed count in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. “So, I'm not too worried about a recount."

In her experience, Amaro said, in most elections “everything normally stays the same” after recounts.

Benavente, 32, has listed his occupation as a community organizer and legal professional. He recently earned his law degree from N.C. Central University.

This was his first run for public office.

Jones, 48, is a pastor and real estate agent. He told CityView Today late last month that he planned to ask for a recount should Benavente's margin of victory remain low following the canvass.

He has alleged that his opponent lied to voters about him during the campaign.

"I have my own personal set of ethics," Jones said before Friday's recount. "I will not do those tactics, like send out lies and try to defame people. I saw the fliers. If it may have cost me, it's fine. I run a clean campaign. That does not move me. I'm not winning at any cost."

In response, Benavente said, "We ran a grassroots campaign with a lot of first-time volunteers, getting young people involved in the political process. We knocked on doors, we pounded the pavement, and we had real conversations with people. And that's the real big difference between our campaigns. I got to know my neighbors. We spent real hours out in the community, and I don't think the same can be said about my opponent."

The unofficial tally from the July 26 election had Benavente edging Jones 1,012 to 1,006, the tightest race of the night in the city.

On Friday, the elections board certified the overall 14,910 ballots that were cast in the election. That included 198 absentee ballots added during the canvass. A total of 24 provisional ballots were added Thursday.

In all, 10,551 voters cast ballots on Election Day. An overall 4,137 ballots were cast during early voting.

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Fayetteville, elections, City Council, Antonio Jones, Mario Benavente