Election decided by card draw

June 18, 2009 4:23:27 AM PDT
The election came down to the high card.

With the final Town Council seat in the small Phoenix-area town of Cave Creek on the line, two candidates who tied with 660 votes apiece in a May runoff cut cards to decide the race.

The winner was 25-year-old Adam Trenk, whose king of hearts beat out former Councilman Thomas McGuire's six of hearts.

An obscure Arizona law dating to 1925 says that election ties should be broken "by lot." It applies to all elected offices but the governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer and superintendent for public instruction. Ties in those seats are determined by the Legislature.

While a first for Cave Creek and relatively rare, such events do happen from time to time in Arizona. Last year, two local school-board candidates rolled dice to decide a winner. In 1992, a game of poker resolved a stalemate in the primary for a state Legislative seat.

"It was pure Cave Creek," longtime Mayor Vincent Francia said of the tie, and the decision to draw cards to settle the dispute. "Since we couldn't do a paintball showdown, we did something that is traditionally associated with the West, which is a card deck."

As camera crews and bystanders crammed into the town hall on Monday night, Francia drew one of three decks from a cowboy hat. A judge shuffled and McGuire drew first.

When Trenk displayed the winning card, cheers erupted from the crowd.

"It went smoothly. That's what I was hoping for," Francia said. "The candidates were nervous and they wanted to see this come to an end."

Trenk was sworn in immediately and took his seat for the evening's council meeting. He said he was "honored and humbled" to win.

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