Two nail-biter Denton City Council races are going into runoff elections as none of the leading candidates for the mayoral and Place 5 seats could garner more than 50 percent of the votes.
Mayor Mark Burroughs will face lawyer Neil Durrance in a June 23 runoff election.
Burroughs brought in 46.73 percent of the votes, only slightly more than Durrance’s 45.71 percent.
Burroughs did not return telephone messages asking for comment Saturday night.
The difference was 39 votes. Durrance said he will urge voters who came to the polls Saturday and those who did not to vote in the runoff election.
“We will continue to take our message to the people about open and honest government,” Durrance said from his home Saturday night. “Now the choice is clear between a mayor who lives here and one who does not.”
Burroughs recently sold his Denton home and says he lives with his father-in-law inside the city limits, but Durrance said he has seen no evidence that Burroughs is staying there.
The third candidate, Donna Woodfork, tallied only 7.57 percent, but it was enough to stymie a winner.
And in Place 5, third-place Larry Frederick pulled in 13.93 percent to prompt the runoff between incumbent Pete Kamp and veterinarian David Zoltner. Kamp came out slightly ahead with 49.58 percent to Zoltner’s 36.49 percent.
Burroughs is seeking a third term in city politics, his second as mayor. He remains a partner in the law firm of Sawko & Burroughs, which contracts with the city to collect delinquent city taxes. Durrance has strongly criticized that practice, saying it is a conflict of interest.
Durrance also criticized Burroughs as the leader of an elitist council that practices backroom politics and does not listen to the wishes of the public.
Both Burroughs, 54, and Durrance, 55, are lawyers, though Durrance practices mostly in the area of criminal law while Burroughs’ specialty is civil, and they served together on the council between 1998 and 2001.
Burroughs campaigned on his record, pointing to the city’s surviving a global recession with few cuts to city employees’ pay or to services.
Woodfork, 42, campaigned as a candidate who would stand up for the poor and minorities in the city. She has no prior political experience.
Kamp, 59, came within half a percent of avoiding a runoff with Zoltner.
Kamp said she will concentrate on getting supporters out to vote.
“Everybody said ‘don’t worry.’ And that’s when I became concerned. I do believe there are some people who thought it was a done deal and didn’t bother to vote,” Kamp said. “But we have a lot of supporters here tonight and we are ready to fight.”
Kamp said that she and Burroughs will not let the election campaign stop them from accomplishing things that need to be taken care of in the interim.
Zoltner, 65, ran unsuccessfully for council and school board seats in the 1980s and 1990s and has been an outspoken advocate of open government. He has been critical of the legal advice given by the city attorney that closes meetings he believes should be open to the public.
Zoltner said he expected a runoff early on and was not surprised when it came to fruition. “I am ready to carry it through ’til the end. It’s going to be exciting. The voters have a chance to take the city back quite honesty,” he said. Zoltner said the campaign going forward will not differ too much from what he had been doing for the primary. “It will be a different ball game to make sure everyone who did vote does again and with the students gone, it will be an every vote counts campaign. The message is out there. Everyone pretty much knows what were about. It’s a matter of getting the vote out.”
Frederick, 50, joined the race because he objected to the handling of a transmission line project that originally would have affected his property.
Incumbent James King, 51, won handily over coffee shop owner Mike Sutton with a percentage of 58.30 to Sutton’s 41.70. King will now serve a second term in Place 6.
“I feel fortunate to have won,” King said. “I feel fortunate to have some closure. The council will be on edge for next few weeks while we wait for the runoff, but we will get things done.”
This was Sutton’s third failed attempt at a city council place. The 57-year-old coffee shop owner campaigned that King is a city hall insider who goes along with the political machine.
DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
• denotes winner
(I) denotes incumbent
* denotes runoff
Mark Burroughs (I)
Pete Kamp (I)
James King (I)