MARATHON -- In a heated City Council campaign centered around stay-the-course or new direction platforms, voters overwhelmingly decided Tuesday night they want change.
Pawn shop owner and political newcomer Mark Senmartin, 43, backcountry fishing guide and two-term incumbent Richard Keating, and commercial fisherman Pete Worthington, a four-time former councilman, duked it out for Keating's seat and the seat being vacated by Mayor Mike Cinque, who must step down due to term limits.
Voters gave Senmartin 1,401 of the votes, while Keating had 694 and Worthington got 637. The top two vote-getters won the race, but nothing required voters to choose two candidates.
Both Worthington and Keating told the Free Press that Senmartin manipulated the outcome of the election by urging people to vote only for him, but both stopped short of calling it illegal.
"I told people who supported me they could vote for me and just me," Senmartin said, regarding the "bullet vote" accusation. The rookie politician added that had another candidate run on a similar platform, Keating would have also been ousted.
"I would never try to take a vote away from someone," Keating said. "But it is what it is, and we have our two councilmen, and I am open to moving forward and serving with anyone."
Worthington, though, said his days in city politics have come to an end.
"At the end of the day, if the people of Marathon trust the smoke they had blown up their a--, then so be it," he said.
In the town's most contentious council election ever, Senmartin painted Keating and Worthington, who are friends, as part of a Bubba system.
Senmartin said a Monroe County State Attorney investigation into the election also helped him with publicity.
Investigators looked into mailers sent to Marathon voters attacking Senmartin for clearing hardwood hammock on his Bluefin Drive property. Senmartin was found to have committed a code infraction at a June 12 hearing.
The mailers state that a Scott Miller, who lives at 999 98th St., Ocean, paid for and sent them. But the SAO investigation found no one by that name lives at that address. Giving a fake name or address on a campaign mailer is a first-degree misdemeanor.
Worthington said Senmartin's code violation was overlooked by the press, while Keating added the press overplayed the illegal mailer, which was found to have been coordinated by ex-county attorney Jim Hendrick.
"It distracted the voters from the issues," Keating said.
Despite dissatisfaction with the election results, both Keating and Worthington said they had no plans to file complaints against Senmartin.