|By Katelyn Gendron
Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM The race to the mayoral office was a photo finish this Election Day with challenger Susan Dawson unseating eight-year incumbent Richard Cohen by 44 votes. In light of the small margin between the two Cohen has asked for a hand recount that will take place this Thursday.
In an even tighter race for the 11th seat on the City Council that was decided by less than 20 votes, incumbent and Vice President Robert Magovern has also requested a recount.
The recount will take place at the Middle School beginning at 1:30 p.m.
Cohen told Reminder Publications that the "main reason" for going forward with the recount was because of "the numerous phone calls and letters and all of the people who supported me for so long asked me for a recount. They felt I owed it to myself."
Cohen added that he was unsure if there would be any change in the final outcome of the election but that it was his obligation to his supporters to try to maintain his position.
Dawson said the recount has hindered her attempts at transitioning into the mayor's office prior to her January inauguration.
"I'm frustrated beyond belief that our town is stuck in neutral and our town should be allowed to move forward," Dawson said. "Granted Rich Cohen has his rights [to request a recount] but it's unfair to our town. I can't make a smooth transition as long as he is at Town Hall and has not lifted control."
Dawson added that she believes the recount will also harm Agawam financially as state and local officials must be paid to conduct the recount. She said Cohen's decision to move forward with the process "makes me question all the things he's said to date about being fiscally responsible."
When asked to respond to Dawson's claims, Cohen said, "I don't think it's financially irresponsible when you're looking at five votes per precinct. I don't think it puts a dent at all in the future stability of our community or I certainly wouldn't do it."
According to Town Clerk Richard Theroux, historically recounts were needed because of "problems in the absentee ballot area." He explained that on occasion hand counted absentee ballots could have been miscounted or disputed because the voters "x" could have been placed too close to multiple candidates.
Theroux said that unlike previous elections where absentee ballots were counted by hand they are now fed through the voting machines on Election Day creating far less room for error.
He added that the only way Cohen or Magovern would be able to overturn the results of the election would be if "enough challenged votes were overturned."
Magovern said he has no expectations for the recount only that he believes the process must be conducted to ensure that questionable votes are counted properly.