TAMPA — Stacy Hahn, who finished third in the close countywide race for Hillsborough school board, says she will hold off on conceding until the results of Tuesday’s primary election are made official next week.
By the end of the night Tuesday, the race for the District 6 seat — nonpartisan and open to all county voters — was close, with just 0.58 percent of the votes separating Hahn from second-place vote-getter Dipa Shah.
It was almost too close to call, as Florida law requires an automatic recount if two candidates are separated by 0.5 percent of the votes or less.
On Wednesday, once all of the mail-in ballots had been tallied, the difference between the two candidates had grown to 0.71 percent, or 815 votes.
The second-place finisher will face incumbent April Griffin in a run-off election Nov. 4. Griffin, 45, brought in about 27 percent of the votes, the most out of the eight candidates running for the county’s busiest school board race. Shah, a 43-year-old parent and Brandon attorney, came in second with 16.41 percent. Hahn trailed with 15.7 percent and Paula Meckley brought in 14.72 percent.
Hahn, a former public school teacher and now director of the undergraduate special education department at the University of South Florida, said she will remain “cautiously hopeful” until the primary results become official Sept. 4.
“It’s not over,” Hahn, 47, said Wednesday. “They haven’t called anything officially. Regardless of the outcome of this race, I’ll continue to work hard and advocate for children and families and improve education. That is my life work. I think the future holds a lot of opportunity for me.”
Although the results are not yet final, it appeared Wednesday that they will stick, said Gerri Kramer, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office.
“Right now, a recount has not been triggered,” Kramer said Wednesday.
In Florida, recounts kick in automatically if the margin between two candidates is small enough, Kramer said. However, according to state statute, an unsuccessful candidate can file a complaint in circuit court to contest the results of an election within 10 days of when the results are certified.
Hahn, a political newcomer, said she was surprised that the race has been so close because Shah, also a first-time candidate, raised three times the amount of money she did.
“She may not win by a very large margin, which I think speaks to my strength as a candidate,” Hahn said. “I’m proud of the race I ran, no matter what the outcome today or tomorrow is. It’s been an amazing experience.”
Hahn said she isn’t ruling out a second run for school board in the future. She would grill the final two candidates in the District 6 race in upcoming forums if the primary results stand, adding that she isn’t ready to say whether she would support Griffin or Shah.