Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings won reelection Tuesday, defeating challenger Pam Limes by a vote of 1,027 to 705, winning 59 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.
A few absentee ballots could still trickle in over the next couple of days, officials said.
Election officials struggled to count ballots from other parts of the county, and around 10:15 p.m. Tuesday they said their server had crashed as other precincts in the county were being counted. But they soon reported results for all 31 precincts in Highland County.
Hastings, a Republican, celebrated his victory at GOP headquarters in Hillsboro, where he had invited Republicans, Democrats and independent voters to join him. He thanked supporters and volunteers, and said he looks forward to leading the city for the next four years.
Hastings, a nationally-known standup comedian, moved from Los Angeles to a farm outside Hillsboro in 2008. He began purchasing and renovating property in the city, and eventually decided to run for mayor as a Republican. In 2011, he won a three-way GOP primary, and then defeated independent candidate and former city council member John Levo in the General Election with 62 percent of the vote.
The move to disband the city fire department in favor of a contract with Paint Creek saved the city thousands of dollars a year, but it also provoked ill will among some residents who disagreed with the move or had personal or family ties with firefighters who were impacted. It also united members of past administrations who backed Limes this year.
But Hastings’ initiatives to improve the appearance of the town, increase the city’s revenues, hire more police officers and engage in a major street paving project apparently carried the day.
The total votes cast were more than four years ago in the mayor’s race.
Limes, a former Hillsboro businesswoman, announced her candidacy in August 2014 at a Democratic Party picnic, saying at the time, “Some people approached me, and I thought about it. It’s a serious matter.”
Limes was among several vocal opponents of Hastings’ plan, ultimately adopted by city council, to forego the city fire department in favor of contracting with the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District.
She was one of four local residents who last year signed a letter from a Columbus law firm demanding that the city law director file an injunction prohibiting the city from continuing its contract with Paint Creek. But Limes said when she announced, and repeated consistently throughout the campaign, that the fire issue was not why she was running.
“It’s over,” she said. “He won. I’m not running to bring back the fire department. That did not happen.”
Limes outspent Hastings 3 to 1, according to campaign finance reports, and was a recipient of a $5,000 contribution from the Ohio Democratic Party, which party officials said was part of the state party’s “Main Street Initiative” to support local candidates.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.