When the final mail-in and provisional votes were tallied Friday, Republican James Winn had defeated Democrat Brad Gillis by for an at-large seat on the Wicomico County Council.
Winn prevailed by just 430 votes – 12,753 to 12,323.
When election night concluded 10 days ago, Winn held a 2,771-vote lead over Gillis. As mail-in ballots were counted over the last week, however, Winn’s lead shrank substantially.
Throughout this election cycle, Democratic candidates have received more mail-in votes than Republicans, which had given hope to Gillis and his supporters.
Winn, who lives in Mardela Springs, received 24.36 percent of the at-large vote spread among four contenders, compared to 23.54 percent for Gillis, who lives in Salisbury.
As in previous elections, the top vote-getter among at-large candidates was current Council President John Cannon of Salisbury. When the final votes were counted, he received 15,578 votes or 29.76 percent.
Megan Outten of Salisbury finished fourth with 11,621 votes or 22.20 percent.
Two of Wicomico’s council members are elected at-large, while five are elected within districts.
Both Winn and Gillis were first-time political candidates.
A self-acknowledged conservative, Winn has lived in Wicomico for 18 years and graduated from Parkside High School in 2011. A small-businessman and craftsman, he and his father own and operate Acme Ceramic Tile Co.
He repeatedly called for a need to change the county’s government and ensure personal freedoms as the incentive to his seeking office: “I remember feeling sick and tired of being sick and tired and thinking to myself, if I want to make a change -- it’s up to me to take action.”
Winn made public safety a top issue, saying police and fire departments are in desperate need of recruitment and retention strategies. He also called for less government regulation and lower taxes for small-business owners.
On the education front, he was a proponent of charter schools and private education. He said he backs parents raising their children as they see fit, with the school’s role being to educate children in traditional subjects such as reading, writing, math, science, history and civics.
He was closely aligned with the County Executive’s race winner, Republican Julie Giordano.
Gillis is a principal at NAI Coastal and Gillis Gilkerson, a construction and development Company in Downtown Salisbury. His mother is a retired Wicomico County public school teacher; his father is entrepreneur and developer Palmer Gillis, a former Salisbury City Council member.
A council veteran who has served on the body for 12 of the last 16 years, Cannon is owner of Cannon Management & Rentals. His family has played a role in Wicomico politics for decades.
Winn’s victory means the County Council will have five Republican and two Democratic members.
Council members will be sworn into office on Tuesday night, Dec. 6, in Room 301 of the Government Office Building. Giordano will be worn in at 9 a.m. that day in a ceremony at James M. Bennett High School.