Margaret Scarsdale can officially use a title she thought she had secured in November — 1st Middlesex District state representative.
Tuesday night, the Special Committee appointed by House Speaker Ron Mariano to examine the results of November’s election returned a unanimous decision declaring Scarsdale the winner of the race. The decision to not seat Scarsdale, the Pepperell Democrat, happened as Townsend Republican Andrew Shepherd filed a late court challenge to the election outcome on Dec. 23 in Superior Court.
Shepherd lost the general election by 17 votes and a subsequently lost a recount by seven votes to Scarsdale. Appearing before the Special Committee on Friday, Shepherd argued that “human error under the smallest of margins… materially affected the outcome of this race.”
Citing past precedent in 1988-89 Connolly v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, Shepherd’s attorney Michael Sullivan said the courts would have to order a new election take place.
Shepherd called into question signatures on mail-in ballots not matching, saying he felt it was “intentional” that town clerks didn’t examine the signatures. Additionally, he said that 114 ballots were discovered during the recount.
In response, Dennis Newman, attorney for Scarsdale, said varying signatures are not unusual. He also responded to Shepherd’s point about additional ballots, saying that 85 of those ballots were found to be test ballots or blanks.
In a statement Tuesday night, Scarsdale expressed excitement about getting to work.
“I am deeply grateful to Speaker Mariano for his steady leadership and to the committee members and their staff for their expeditious review and their attention to this critical process. I am eager and ready to get down to business serving the hard-working people of the First Middlesex District. I am excited to continue to advocate for our communities as a seated member of the House of Representatives, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to deliver real results for my district this session,” Scarsdale wrote.
While Shepherd was unwilling to say if he’d accept the Special Committee’s decision on Friday, he said Tuesday he had called Scarsdale to congratulate her.
“Our campaign is disappointed by the decision of the special house committee, but we are grateful the committee was willing to listen as we presented significant errors that came about during this election cycle,” Shepherd wrote in an email. “We hope these issues raised about the process will lead to the strengthening of our voting system. I’m excited to continue my advocacy in our community and work with our new State Representative Margaret Scarsdale”
Scarsdale took the oath of office Wednesday.
Reporter Shane Rhodes contributed to this report.