116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Most Cedar Rapids voters decided Tuesday it’s time for a change in leadership of Iowa’s second-largest city.
But as voters narrowed a four-way race for mayor, Tiffany O’Donnell rose to the top to guarantee a spot in a Nov. 30 runoff election while Amara Andrews finished with just a slim lead in unofficial results over incumbent Brad Hart — casting uncertainty over who will take the second spot on the ballot.
No candidate reached the necessary 50 percent of the vote to win outright, so the top two vote-getters have less than a month to vie for the city’s top elected role. Women Lead Change Chief Executive Officer O’Donnell emerged with over 40 percent of the vote — 10,991 total. But there is a possibility that a batch of 112 provisional ballots cast countywide — likely most of them coming from Cedar Rapids — could sway who gets to be in second place.
As it stands, TrueNorth employee Andrews edged out Hart by 24 votes to finish second with 7,332 votes, according to the unofficial results. Quaker Oats employee Myra Colby Bradwell finished last in the race with 411 votes.
Results are subject to a final canvass by the Linn County Board of Supervisors, likely to be Tuesday, before being official.
O’Donnell has campaigned on finishing derecho cleanup and accelerating flood control on both sides of the Cedar River. She also has centered on recruitment and retention of workers and businesses, as well as creating a more vibrant urban center surrounded by unique neighborhoods.
“I just couldn’t be happier about how it turned out, and I hope that it’s a bit of a referendum on how we want to see campaigns run,” O’Donnell said. “We have to be if we are tired of divisiveness in politics. We have an opportunity to be the change, and this is our opportunity.”
If elected, Andrews would be the city’s first Black mayor and the first Black woman on the nine-member City Council. She has campaigned as a progressive Democrat in a field of registered Republicans, who have bristled at partisanship influencing the race and maintained that there is no place for party politics in the nonpartisan positions.
Andrews’ platform centers on fostering more public input in city decisions and operations, supporting and partnering with not-for-profits to address unmet needs and paving a path for equitable recovery from the 2020 derecho and pandemic.
“Despite the attacks on me” — likely referring to news coverage of a legal dispute over a home she and her husband had built in Illinois — “we still have lots of support and so we will hope to prevail in 28 days,” Andrews said in a brief interview Tuesday night with The Gazette.
Campaign disclosure reports filed Oct. 28, the most recent filings before the election, showed O’Donnell raised $136,770 and had the highest cash total raised from Cedar Rapids donors. She reported $13,045.79 cash on hand.
Andrews had raised $181,440 — two-thirds from out-of-state donors, though she had the most Cedar Rapids contributions and $16,945.10 on hand.
The candidate elected to the part-time role of mayor will begin his or her four-year term at noon Jan. 1, 2022. The position pays about $39,000 a year.
Surrounded by supporters, friends and family at her watch party Tuesday at Lucky’s in Czech Village, O’Donnell said over the next four weeks she will meet with voters and listen to their hopes, dreams and challenges to identify how she could best move the city forward if elected.
“We have to make sure that we continue to work toward a better, brighter Cedar Rapids,” she said.
Should the results stand and Andrews proceeds into the runoff, over the next four weeks, Andrews’ campaign manager Sarah Halbrook said in a statement, “We all know that turnout is the name of the game in runoff elections. We have the resources on-hand, the ability to scale quickly and we are confident that our team will get it done once again.”
Andrews in a statement Wednesday said she expected a “clean,” issues-based campaign moving forward.
“The voters should decide whether they want more of the same conservative status-quo leadership that puts the interests of large corporate giants over those of working people, or if they’re ready for real change,” Andrews said.
While campaigning against O’Donnell, a former news anchor for CBS2/FOX 28, the Andrews campaign has criticized news reporting on Andrews’ Illinois legal dispute and potential ethics violations stemming from an anti-O’Donnell mailer, urging supporters to “ignore the noise” and focus on Andrews’ vision.
Hart said in a text Wednesday, “I don’t have any plans yet and haven’t really discussed it. When the canvass is finished and the provisional ballots and military absentee ballots are counted I will make a plan,” declining to answer whether he would commit to not requesting a recount.
It is unclear whether Hart would endorse a successor if he is officially counted out of a runoff. But Hart’s team campaigned against Andrews — sending texts in the days before the election directing people to KWWL-TV stories about the legal dispute and campaign mailer.
The 112 provisional ballots will be reviewed Thursday at a precinct board meeting, said Linn County Auditor Joel Miller. This is a preliminary number.
There were 241 undervotes and 11 overvotes reported in the race out of 26,104 votes, which Miller said typically indicates people were upset, confused or did not want to vote in a race. There could be more such votes among those provisional ballots.
Military and overseas ballots likely would be a small factor in the race, Miller said. As of Sunday, the auditor’s office had issued only 11 overseas ballots and two had come back. One returned Wednesday and may not qualify, he said, and he did not expect to receive many — if any — additional ballots.
Candidates would have until 5 p.m. Wednesday after the canvass to request a recount, Miller said. But cautioned strongly against anyone seeking one. By the time results are certified, the runoff will likely be just 21 days away.
Ballots would have to be reprinted to be ready for a runoff, and the longer that takes, Miller said, the less likely it is people would vote by mail or early in-person. He could print ballots with showing O’Donnell vs. Andrews as well as O’Donnell vs. Hart options to provide options for the Nov. 30 runoff.
With Linn County turnout near 28 percent Tuesday, Miller said that means 72 percent of voters didn’t participate. Once a recount notice is filed, Miller said there is no going back.
“You could theoretically end up with a very small subset of the voters that voted (Tuesday) voting for the mayor on Nov. 30,” Miller said. “ … I hope if someone is thinking about a recount that they give it some long hard thought as to what the repercussions are going to be in the end.”
More results can be viewed at thegazette.com/campaigns-elections.
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