Wauwatosa tie-breaking ballot counted, District 5 aldermanic race winner declared

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WAUWATOSA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A previously-tied election in Wauwatosa finally has a winner after a single provisional ballot was opened Friday.

The District 5 aldermanic candidates were deadlocked on election night at 702 votes apiece.

But challenger Sean Lowe let loose a lot of emotion Friday afternoon when he heard his name read from the last remaining ballot. His tears of joy flowed after a long three days of waiting, and a lifetime of wanting to make a difference.

It was just one race and one name, but it made a huge impact.

When the ballot was unsealed, City Clerk Steven Braatz asked, "What's the first office the person voted for?" the response was "Alderperson for District 5: Sean Lowe."

That single provisional ballot decided the District 5 aldermanic race. Sean Lowe will become the first Black man elected to the council in city history.

Trying to contain his emotion, Lowe said, "Understanding that I've been… most of my life I've been fighting for civil rights and racial justice."

Lowe ran on equity, inclusion, and affordable housing, and says his win proves the people of Wauwatosa support that, too. "This campaign is showing everyone -white, Black, Hispanic, Asian, LGBTQ+- that there's a place for them in Wauwatosa. That we like diversity."

The deciding provisional ballot was cast on election day, but the voter was not able to provide photo ID at the time. So the ballot was still accepted Tuesday but sealed. The voter then provided ID the next day, and the ballot was opened and counted Friday.

Wauwatosa City Clerk Steven Braatz said, "In my 25 years I've seen close races but never one as tight as a tie, coming down to one vote before."

Lowe's opponent, incumbent alderman Rob Gustafson, repeatedly congratulated him on the win.

Gustafson said it's been a civil campaign. The candidates have been in regular communication and have even gone to lunch together. Gustafson said, "There are things, to me, that happen a lot in a lot of other campaigns that I didn't want to be a part of. And I think getting back to a down the middle line is where we need to go."

Soon Lowe will shift his attention to the position he was elected to, and the goals he wants to accomplish. He said, "I hope nobody ever skips another election in their life. I think they can at least point back to this election and see how every single vote in every election matters."

If the provisional ballot had not been valid for some reason and the race was still tied, the winner would have been chosen at random, by drawing lots or flipping a coin.

Gustafson said he's not sure yet if he will file for a recount, and he's going to take the weekend to think it over.

Per state statute, candidates have until 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 13 to do so.

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