MANSFIELD -- David Falquette edged Dan Hardwick in a tight GOP primary for Mansfield City Council's first ward seat, according to unofficial results from the Richland County Board of Elections.
Falquette defeated Hardwick by 27 votes, earning 231 ballots to Hardwick's 204. According to Deputy Director Bill Freytag, the vote difference must come within one-half of one percent to qualify for a recount; Falquette won by a margin of six percent.
"If we had more votes, that might change things," Freytag said. "And we only had four provisional ballots so that won't affect the final count."
Falquette was collecting yard signs when the final votes came in on Tuesday evening. He noted he was optimistic about the polls early on in the evening.
"I knew I had a tough competitor, Dan has run before and his name has been out there, people know who he is," Falquette said. "So I knew having never run for office in the past I had an uphill battle. I was concerned, I had to get out there and knock on doors and do my thing, and it was a close race."
The 57-year-old Falquette will now face Democratic candidate John Harsch in the November general election. The victor in the general election race will begin his term on Jan. 1, 2018.
Hardwick served as a former Richland County Commissioner from 2001 to 2005. He was also an at-large representative of the Mansfield Charter Review Commission in the 1990s.
A native of Fremont, Falquette has worked in either Mansfield or Ashland since 1983. He works as a program manager at TE Connectivity in downtown Mansfield, where he's been employed for 15 years.
Falquette has been involved with a local neighborhood watch group for over 10 years, which he credits for developing his interest in politics. During those meetings, he got to know Councilman Mike Hill, who has the first ward seat but was ineligible to run again because of term limits.
"(Hill) thought (running for city council) might be a good opportunity for me to expand my opportunities with the City of Mansfield to help people," Falquette previously told Richland Source.
A staple of Falquette's campaign has been maintaining healthy staffing levels within the police and fire departments, and making Mansfield an appealing place for businesses to set up shop. He also believes in maintaining and improving the city's park and recreation areas.
"Security is so important to people in the entire city," Falquette said. "We certainly have some big safety concerns, the whole state is under siege by opiate abuse. Hopefully it goes hand-in-hand with bringing in jobs; if people have jobs maybe there's less opportunity to use drugs.
"Those are the two big things: safety and jobs, and creating an environment where people want to grow their businesses in Mansfield and come to Mansfield, both big and small," he said.
Looking forward to the general election, Falquette says he will not be taking anything for granted.
"We have to get out there and cover the rest of the area, meet more people and spend a little more time talking to them," he said.