In a stunning surprise, newcomer Emily Howard joined incumbent Keith Land in clinching positions on the Lodi City Council on Tuesday night.
Challenger Bob Johnson was third, and Mayor Steve Mann lagged behind the leaders by about 1,800 votes.
With all 43 precincts reporting, Land had 8,277 votes (27.6 percent) and Howard had 8,178 (27.2 percent).
Johnson finished third with 7,097 votes (23.6 percent) and Mann was last with 6,416 votes (21.4 percent).
"It's official," said Howard, a physical therapist assistant at Lodi Memorial Hospital. "It's a humbling experience and a wonderful experience. I'm looking forward to being sworn in."
Land, who spent the evening retrieving candidate signs throughout Lodi, echoed similar sentiments.
"I feel great. The fact that I came in first two times in a row is a tribute to how hard my campaign committee worked."
Land said he will continue to support building a greenbelt and moving forward with the two-percent citywide growth limit.
Howard, 30, said she spent election night sitting at home like everyone else waiting for the final numbers to roll in.
"Wow, the numbers are updated," she said calmly as excited screams of her friends and family erupted from the background. At about 10:15 p.m., returns showed her ahead by 28 votes. "This is encouraging, but there's still time. But this is definitely encouraging."
At that time, roughly 875 votes separated last-place Mann and first-place Howard. Howard and Land spent most of the night switching places between first and second - final standings putting Land in the lead with just 99 votes separating the two candidates.
Johnson also seemed optimistic early on - but that was with only the absentee ballots being counted. At 9:45 p.m., he was in third place with 22 percent of the vote.
"I wish I were one or two places higher … but I don't think it's that bad considering we have a lot of votes to go," said a relaxed Johnson.
But his tone quickly changed when the final election results kept him in third place. "Now I'm just licking my wounds," Johnson added. "I give Emily credit … obviously, the female vote is something to be contended with."
It was the third time Johnson had run and failed in a bid for the council.
Johnson, 62, stopped by Carnegie Forum earlier in the evening for a quick on-camera interview with AT&T Broadband after spending an evening with friends and family at Hazel's restaurant.
Council members Susan Hitchcock and Alan Nakanishi - Nakanishi was vying for a state Senate seat - made appearances at the city-hosted reception from 8 to 11 p.m. Tuesday.
If Nakanishi successfully claims the Senate title - a race too close to call at press time - the City Council will have the option of appointing a third new council member.
And Johnson, a former council appointee, said if he was offered the position he'd take it.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," he added, after finding out he'd lost the race.
Mann, who works as a systems and programming analyst for San Joaquin County, had departed for Lake Tahoe, and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Land cited concerns over Mann's reimbursement for college tuition for Mann's defeat.
"But Steve has done a great job as mayor," he said. "With his hard work and dedication, we will move forward on projects he approved."
Mann, 49, was seeking his third city council term, while Land was vying for his second.
Howard defended accusations from non-supporters that she was too young and inexperienced to be elected. "I had a lot of good encouragement while knocking on doors, and I had a lot of people praying for me," she said. "I don't think you can make a judgment like that and rule out an individual.
"I felt it would be a close race all along. Earlier I had this overwhelming sense of peace knowing I ran my campaign well. I was excited to see my name up on No. 1 and No. 2. I'm happy with either seat."
This election was the most expensive in Lodi city history, with more than $50,000 in campaign funds raised by the four candidates collectively.
The latest disclosure deadline on Oct. 26 revealed that Johnson had raised the most money at $15,488. Howard's year-to-date, monetary campaign contributions totaled $5,284, while Mann's tally was $13,195 and Land's was $15,180.
Howard, supported financially by Lodi's firefighters, endorsed construction of an indoor sports complex, an additional city swimming pool and a new public safety building. She is also in favor of putting paramedics on fire trucks, because firefighters are usually the first to arrive at an emergency scene.
Land, 49, was also initially supported by the firefighters, but the firefighters reportedly cooled on Land toward the end of the campaign. The Farmers and Merchants bank vice president is in favor of downtown renovation and Eastside improvements. He, too, supports completing the proposed public safety facility.
Johnson, a real estate appraiser for a Woodbridge company, campaigned on his community involvement, his call for more fiscal oversight at City Hall and personal beliefs in open government.
Mann's main platform was finishing what he started. His most important issues include the public safety building and redevelopment of the Eastside. He is also in favor of building an indoor sports complex and an additional swimming pool.
The winners will be sworn in at the Dec. 6 City Council meeting, at which time the council members will select a new mayor and vice mayor among themselves, said Deputy City Clerk Jennifer Perrin.
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