It’s official: Rochester Hills mayor wins write-in bid

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac – After more than two days of tallying up write-in votes, Oakland County election officials confirmed Friday that Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan K. Barnett won his bid to stay in office.

Elections director Joe Rozell said the race was certified Friday by his office and the County Board of Canvassers.

Barnett – whose name did not appear on the ballot – received all but 34 of 9,708 write-in votes. That was good for 53 percent of the 18,241 total votes cast for the office. His closest rival, former city councilman Ravi Yalamanchi, received 7,120 votes, or 39 percent, and Jim Stevens received 1,413 votes or 8 percent.

The mayor's race was among dozens of results for elected office and ballot questions decided Tuesday in 29 Oakland County communities. All of the unofficial results have to be certified by law, Rozell said.

“I have to commend not only my staff but also city election workers across the county for doing an excellent job,” he said. “They made our job much easier.”

The mayoral write-in count featured 145 eventually-approved variations of Barnett’s name, Rozell said.

“It was an unusual number but the Board of Canvassers agreed that the intentions of write-in voters were clear,” he said.

Variations included numerous misspellings of “Bryan” or “Barnett,” he said with some ballots with only the first or last name and others that included “mayor” and “write-in.” Barnett’s first name had several references on write-in ballots, including Ryan, Robert, Bob, Rayan, Mark, Steve, Braine, Brun, Rick, Kevin and James.

After a vote certification, other candidates have a six-day window for requesting a recount – something Rozell doubted would occur in the Rochester Hills mayoral race “considering the large number of votes and the margin of victory.”

Candidates are limited to two successive terms as mayor or council member under the city’s charter, though it was subsequently amended to permit someone to run later as a write-in candidate.

Barnett, who was partially inspired by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s successful write-in victory in the August 2013 primary, estimated he spent “around $120,000” during his campaign.

“It is probably twice (the amount) ever spent by a candidate in Rochester Hills,” said Barnett, who noted it was important to educate voters of the write-in effort.

“I probably visited every neighborhood on foot during the campaign, wearing out some shoes in the process,” he cracked.

Some residents complained about being deluged with a large volume of campaign fliers and “robocalls” during the campaign.

This week, Barnett was busy picking up 1,700 campaign yard signs, returning telephone calls and thanking everyone who helped in his historic run, the largest and most successful write-in campaign in Oakland County election history.

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