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Third-place Horbacz sets sights on 2015 council run

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Fresh off his showing in Tuesday’s election, Cody J. Horbacz is already looking two years ahead for another run for Watertown City Council.

In what some local political observers consider a surprise, Mr. Horbacz, 28, finished in third place, beating out council veteran Jeffrey M. Smith in the four-way race for City Council.

Mr. Horbacz did not win a seat on council, but was more than pleased with his showing, he said Wednesday.

“I feel like I gave it my all,” a satisfied Mr. Horbacz said. “I gave it my best shot.”

A day after the election, Mr. Horbacz said he intends to run again in 2015, when incumbent council members Roxanne M. Burns and Joseph M. Butler Jr. and Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham are up for re-election. Supporters are urging him to get into the race, he said.

A political newcomer, Mr. Horbacz finished with 1,106 votes, while Mr. Smith ended up with 1,091, according to unofficial results. Winning re-election for a second four-year term, Teresa R. Macaluso was the top vote-getter with 1,646 votes. Stephen A. Jennings had 1,378 votes and enough to claim the second seat up for grabs.

According to the Jefferson County Board of Elections, 258 absentee ballots remain to be counted in the race. Turnout was low, with 2,848 people, or 24 percent of the 12,000 registered voters, casting votes on Tuesday.

Mr. Horbacz learned “a lot” about politics and campaigning since announcing he was running for City Council last spring, he said. Maybe it was the lack of name recognition or his youthful age that held him back this time, but he will feel more comfortable during his next run for office, Mr. Horbacz said.

For instance, he will be a better candidate, already going through the process this year. As a result of that, he will start out with a stronger message from the beginning, unlike this campaign when it took some time to get over his nervousness.

While Mr. Horbacz is thinking about his political future, Mr. Smith said Wednesday that he doesn’t know if he will ever run for office again. It may be the end of his 20-year political career, he said.

He was not ready for any Monday morning quarterbacking about the campaign, Mr. Smith said.

“You can always look back and say would I do anything different,” Mr. Smith said. “Would I do anything different? No, I would not.”

He was just 23 when he sought political office for the first time, a successful run for the old Jefferson County Board of Supervisors. In that September primary, he shocked five-term supervisor James A. Leana and went on to win the seat in November. At the age of 29, he first won election to City Council in 1999. Two years ago, he took on Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham for Watertown mayor but lost.

Asked whether a controversial zoning law may have played a role in Tuesday’s results, he reiterated the media portrayed the issue unfairly.

“But I’m not crying over spilled milk,” he said.

Mr. Smith was one of three council members who voted for the so-called roommate law, which erupted into a public relations nightmare and brought accusations that city officials were trying to regulate lifestyles and living arrangements.

It first came before the council last January, after a Thompson Boulevard resident complained that her neighbor was living with his fiancee and two friends. The engaged couple has since married. The neighborhood is made up of single-family houses and is zoned as a Residential A district. However, he voted his conscious, Mr. Smith said.

“I wouldn’t change my vote, not when I did what I thought was in the best interest in the city,” he said, “even if it’s going to cost me an election. It’s not the person I am.”

As he did on Tuesday night, Mr. Smith said his loss was attributed to “not getting enough people to fill out my circle” in the voting booth. He just couldn’t drum up enough enthusiasm to get people to go vote for him on Tuesday, he said.

Turnout was low, especially compared to the first time he ran for City Council in 1999, he said. In that election, he accumulated the most votes with 2,851 votes in a four-way race, about 1,200 voters more than Ms. Macaluso received on Tuesday.

“That’s a big difference in the number of people who turned out,” he said.

The 2,848 votes cast on Tuesday ended up about 1,000 fewer than in the 2005 City Council race and about 1,200 fewer than in 2007 when there also was a mayor’s race, said Jerry O. Eaton, Jefferson County Republican election commissioner.

“That’s a pretty big drop off,” he said.

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