NORRISTOWN Thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, 10 months of campaigning, hundreds of phone calls, fliers, and handshakes. But on Friday it came down to 29 slips of paper in a kitschy blue jar.
The Montgomery County Election Board held a "drawing of lots" to decide the winner of a tied municipal race.
The two candidates for Abington Ward 4 (Elkins Park) commissioner each pulled a number.
The Democrat drew a 30.
The Republican drew a 3.
The Democrat won.
Modest cheers and congratulations, hugs, and exhilarated faces followed. Meanwhile, the Republican and her cohort quietly exited the room.
"My thoughts are -." Winner Jimmy DiPlacido paused to gather his words. "Wow. This is incredible."
Before the tiebreaker, the commissioners' board room in Norristown had been alive with humor and curiosity.
The Republican candidate, Pam Vasserman, had brought a good-luck gift bag - "little charms from people. A picture of my parents. . . . My husband just put in an Xbox controller," she said.
In the Nov. 5 election, Vasserman and DiPlacido both ended with 527 votes after a recount.
As the Election Board took its seats, Democratic lawyer Adam C. Bonin whispered, "May the odds be ever in your favor," the line from The Hunger Games.
The candidates' attorneys inspected the jar - a cardboard canister covered in cornflower-blue paper, with "Americana" in faded white letters.
They got to inspect the "tiles" - 29 slips of paper, roughly equal in size, numbered 2 through 30 in 26-point Calibri type.
Richards explained that the first number would be recorded and returned to the jar so there would be no advantage to going first.
"What, so we can tie again?" asked Robert Adshead, chairman of the Abington-Rockledge Republican Committee.
Both sides agreed that DiPlacido would draw first.
The county's chief operating officer, Lauren Lambrugo, held the jar high, so no one could see inside.
"Number 30 was picked by Mr. DiPlacido," Richards said.
The right side of the room fell quiet, while murmurs filled the left side.
Vasserman stepped forward, knowing her selection could not be a winner.
"Number 3 is picked by Miss Vasserman," Richards said.
With the novelty over, lawyers and candidates got serious again.
The commissioner-elect thanked his opponent for a lively campaign, noting, "In an election slated to bring in maybe 20 percent [voter turnout], our race brought in more than 50 percent."
"They got the right commissioner," said DiPlacido, who works for the American Red Cross and lives in the McKinley section of Abington with his wife and daughter.
Vasserman's attorneys began preparing an appeal, asking the courts to reconsider some of the absentee ballots that led to the tie in the first place.
But observer Karen Sanchez, a friend of DiPlacido's and wife of the Ward 7 commissioner-elect, Ben Sanchez, was still electrified by the display of democratic rarity.
"I've never seen anything like this in my life," she said.