SAN LEANDRO -- While Mayor Tony Santos decided not to challenge his slim defeat in the city's first ranked-choice voting election, he won't be acknowledging that mayor-elect Stephen Cassidy won, either.
"I will leave office without conceding the election on the grounds that the (ranked-choice voting) system is flawed," Santos said Friday, two days after the deadline to challenge the certified results of the race that had him losing by 232 votes out of nearly 23,500 cast -- less than a single percentage point.
Santos was a strong supporter of ranked-choice voting 10 years ago, when the decision was made for San Leandro to use the system. But he said this election revealed its problems and "I am now beginning to align myself with those who oppose ranked-choice."
He said voters aren't getting what they wanted.
"Joyce (Starosciak) and I, who are members of the City Council, received over 60 percent of the first-place votes combined," he said. "That tells me there wasn't a real mood out there for -- quote -- changing what the City Council was doing."
Cassidy said that's not accurate. "Joyce ran as a candidate of change as well," he said. "The bottom line is the majority of her supporters chose me second. They wanted change as well. That's why I'm the new mayor."
Santos also said the results don't mesh with the city's charter, which calls for 50 percent plus one vote to win an election.
In ranked-choice, voters pick first, second and third choice candidates for a single office. If no one initially gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the system starts eliminating candidates from the bottom of the pack. The alternate picks on ballots who selected the eliminated candidate are then added to the tally.
Because of this elimination process, Cassidy did not get more than 50 percent of total ballots cast, and Santos said that means he technically didn't have the support of more than half the voters, as is mandated by the charter.
Santos said a traditional runoff would have likely had a different result, adding that ranked-choice races in Oakland and San Francisco were similarly flawed.
"It's all speculation," Cassidy said. "I am not going to make any critical comments about Tony. The bottom line is the election is over and I am the certified winner. "... It's not required that (Santos) concede. I'm looking forward to being sworn in, rolling up my sleeves and being the new mayor of San Leandro."
Santos said he realizes that he might be called a sore loser or worse for not conceding to Cassidy, but doesn't care.
"I have nothing to prove anymore," he said. "I'm done. In 18 years, I had a wonderful career but good God, I'm 78 years old. No, I'm not going to run for any other office. Whether I get involved in politics in some other way, I don't know."