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Mixed success for write-ins

Write-in candidate Connie Pukaite talks with District 5 candidate Pat Rochford at an election night gathering at The Highland House in Mequon April 1.

Write-in candidate Connie Pukaite talks with District 5 candidate Pat Rochford at an election night gathering at The Highland House in Mequon April 1. Photo By John O'Hara

April 2, 2014

Write-in campaigns across the North Shore had varying degrees of success Tuesday, with one candidate pulling a major upset while another lost out to the declared candidates.

In Mequon, former mayor Connie Pukaite, whose write-in campaign for the District 2 seat was launched only three weeks ago, upset former alderman Bob Ashmore by securing 58 percent of the vote to his 40.

According to the unofficial Tuesday evening count, Pukaite had 362 votes while Ashmore had 252.

"Frankly, it's a surprise," Pukaite said Wednesday morning. "Write-in campaigns are not easy to mount and be successful. I'm inordinately proud of the people who came out and worked on it with me."

Pukaite credited her reputation and work as a former mayor and city volunteer for the wide margin of her victory. Pukaite said that, while assumptions had been made in the community regarding her stance on development, that she has no agenda and "we are a city that needs to look to the growing needs of this community to meet our future."

Pukaite said certain things, like a police force smaller than it was 35 years ago and the continued use of borrowing to fund road work, are issues she is interested in examining upon taking office. She emphasized the need for the community to move past any negativity involved in the District 2 race.

"Running a city is important and difficult business," Pukaite said. "It's made more difficult by negativity and people who see us as divided. That's not how I feel. I do not feel divided from my fellow aldermen."

Ashmore said Wednesday morning that two things contributed most to his defeat: the efforts of the Committee for Election Choices, which backed Pukaite and whom Ashmore describes as having an "aggressive development push," and local talk radio programs which emphasized his stance on the Israel/Palestine conflict and turned the Hasidic Jewish population of Mequon against him.

"In over 25 years of public service in Mequon, I never once injected Israel or the Palestinians or American foreign policy into any action of mine," Ashmore said.

However, Ashmore said, their efforts will backfire since his defeat gives him more time to advocate for Palestine through organizations like Amnesty International and human rights organization B'Tselem.

"My time is freed up, ever more now, to pursue justice and human rights, which I've been committed to for a long time," Ashmore said.

Tirado defeated

In Fox Point, incumbent Christine Symchych and Terry McGauran, running for the second time in as many years, defeated write-in candidate Marty Tirado by a wide margin.

According to the Tuesday results, which remain unofficial until certified by the board of canvassers:

Christine Symchych (i) 583, 39%

Terry McGauran 566, 38%

Marty Tirado 334, 23%

"I'm very grateful to be elected for anther three year term," Symchych said Wednesday. "I'm remarkably excited to welcome Terry to the board, and to be working with him for the next three years."

Symchych said she appreciated the involvement of village residents and was optimistic about the future of Fox Point.

"The village has a lot of things on its plate," Symchych said, "and I think it's got a board in place that's capable of tackling it."

McGauran thanked his friends and supporters, who are "one and the same."

"I'm honored to serve and look forward to serving the village in this capacity," McGauran said. "...I'm grateful for all the people who supported me."

Tirado said Wednesday that as a write-in candidate his defeat doesn't come as a surprise. Tirado thanked his supporters and said he will continue to advocate for elected officials to deny public funding to the Bridge Lane Ravine footbridge project, which he claims a majority of residents doesn't support.

"Fox Point is a great place to live," Tirado said. "It's a great village. Unfortunately we just elected two trustees who are vastly out of touch with residents."

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