Pendleton County mayoral race decided by coin flip

Kenton Hornbeck
Kenton Hornbeck
Kenton is a reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected]

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Watching your political dreams hang in the balance as a coin gyrates through the air is a nerve-racking experience, one that a finite amount of individuals ever get to experience.

Mason Taylor, the 25-year-old mayor-elect of Butler, found himself witness to a ritual for the fate of his own ambition on Tuesday night.

“He flips the coin in the air. I kid you not, it hits the ground and rolls three times around on the floor, spins around and lands on tails,” an astonished Taylor told LINK nky. “My heart was stopped. I felt like time had froze, like in the movies.”.

Butler, KY is a town with a population slightly north of 600 people nestled along the Licking River in northern Pendleton County. Its mayoral race pit Taylor, an EMS responder, firefighter and city councilman, up against the incumbent Mayor Greg McElfresh. Taylor decided to run for mayor of his hometown after being defeated in May’s Republican primary for District 1 magistrate.

Taylor was working a regular shift at the Independence Fire Department on Election Day. He had employees at the clerk’s office texting him voting updates throughout the day. He was aware the race was close, even after the polls closed at 6 p.m.

It wasn’t until Taylor got a call from Pendleton County Clerk Rita Spencer informing him he was in an exact tie at 55 votes with no votes left to count. 110 total people voted in the mayoral race, which according to Taylor, is a good turnout for the Butler area.

“I got a call from Rita Spencer saying, ‘hey, you and Greg have tied for the mayor,'” Taylor said. “I was like, ‘what do you mean we’ve tied!?'”

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According to Kentucky state law, “in the event of a tie vote, the tie shall be broken by a coin toss in the presence of the candidates receiving the tie vote.”

Taylor arrived at the Butler city building where the Pendleton County Board of Elections and Sheriff Eddie Quinn were there to conduct the coin toss. The incumbent McElfresh was assigned heads, while Taylor was assigned tails.

The coin was flipped into the air, and the rest was history. Taylor is officially the youngest mayor-elect in the history of Butler.

“You have to have the critical infrastructure: the water, the sewer, the electric, the broadband internet and all the big things that we’ve been talking about this election cycle,” Taylor said of his plans for Butler. “We have to really follow-through, because in 10 years, it’s going to be a whole different landscape.”

News of Taylor’s win spread across social media with Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio tweeting about the coin toss to his Twitter audience of over 260,000 people.

Surprisingly, there is a prior precedent in Butler for a race being settled by a coin toss. In 2020, a city council race was decided by the same method. In fact, Taylor’s win wasn’t the only race in Kentucky decided by this method on Tuesday as a magisterial race in Breckinridge County and the Muldraugh city council, a town in Meade County, came down to a coin toss.

In Northern Kentucky, Patrick Hackett was elected to the Crescent Springs city council after beating Jeannine Bell Smith via coin toss in 2018. They were both tied at 79 votes.

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