Volume Five  Issue Seven  November 2020
The History Center on Main Street
83 and 61 North Main Street
Mansfield, PA
The Museum of Us
The History Center on Main Street
Director- Joyce M. Tice: President - Deb Talbot Bastian: V.P - Kathy McQuaid
The Checkers Election of 1973
Vosburg 408, DeGenaro 408
by Steve McCloskey
The Checkers Election -- Mansfield’s Closest Election for Mayor Decided by the Luck of the Draw
1973 Mayor’s race decided by drawing numbered checkers following two recounts, disqualified ballots and judges’ ruling

The drama surrounding the 2020 Presidential election barely holds a candle to the intrigue and nail-biting suspense surrounding the 24-day wait to determine the winner of the 1973 race for the mayor of Mansfield.

What historically had been a rather one-sided election for that office, often featuring just one candidate, the quest for the mayor’s title that year would surprisingly turn into a highly contested battle. Its conclusion was only decided after two recounts, disqualified votes, and a judge’s decision on a single tie-breaking ballot before finally decided by the luck of the draw.

Few predicted the race for mayor would even be competitive when three-time incumbent Mayor Ernie Vosburg was selected by Republicans and Dr. Art DeGenaro, the chairman of the Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics at Mansfield State College, to represent the Democrats. Both had run unopposed in the May primary election.

Republicans had long dominated the politics of the borough, with Vosburg facing no opposition for mayor while gathering 619 votes in the 1969 general election. He had defeated Democrat John Cady by a 624-193 margin in winning his first term in 1961. By comparison, DeGenaro was a relative newcomer to the area and novice to local politics.

Although a staggering 817 ballots were cast in that off-year primary election, the real – and polarizing -- issue that spring was the referendum on the legalizing of selling liquor and purchase for on-site consumption. The “drys” gathered 59 more votes than the “wets” in the election that was held the week following graduation ceremonies at the college.

Clearly an underdog, DeGenaro, was committed to actually trying to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of winning the office. He ran an organized campaign, complete with advertising and signage. His most effective tactic was a personal door-to-door visit to every household in the borough.
Vosburg was one of the most well-known personalities in Mansfield when he owned and operated Ernie’s Restaurant. It later became the Dutch Pantry and was located where the Robert Swinsick Meeting Room is now situated in the Municipal Building.

The main responsibility of the Mayor’s office then, as well as toda, was overseeing the police department. Two months before the election, a large group of clearly disgruntled citizens descended on the monthly Borough Council meeting to express their frustration and continued dissatisfaction with the police response to fraternity parties in their neighborhoods, including a blowout they claimed caused property damage at the beginning of the semester. They demanded answers and action from the Mayor.
The record-setting turnout from the May primary carried over to the general election held on the sixth of November. The turnout was so large that Mansfield, the largest voting precinct in Tioga County, was the last precinct to report its voting totals filing at 8 a.m. the next morning.

The reported tally was razor-thin with Vosburg receiving 410 votes to 400 votes for DeGenaro of the 829 votes cast. Two days later DeGenaro’s legal representative, Thomas Walrath, filed a recount petition to prevent the Board of Election from filing its official certification.

Tioga County Judge Robert Kemp ordered the Board of Elections to appoint a three-member committee to recount the ballots. During the recount, the committee rejected six ballots and questioned 35 others. Six other ballots showed no vote for mayor. Judge Kemp returned 26 of the questioned ballots to the committee to be included in the recount. He withheld nine ballots which were identified as exhibits of the court and were in the court’s possession pending any appeal.

When the recount was completed, the new result revealed that each candidate received 404 votes, putting the contest into a tie. It was further noted that of the remaining nine ballots -- that were not counted and being held in the possession of the court, five were for DeGenaro and four in favor of Vosburg. That would make DeGenaro the winner by a single vote if all the ballots were declared legal.

With all eyes turned on the validity of those ballots, Judge Kemp set a hearing with the legal representatives of both candidates to reconsider the nine ballots rejected by the court. 

The session was held the morning of November 28. All parties came to agreement to count eight of the disputed ballots. However, Judge Kemp refused to yield on the ninth ballot because the x marked for DeGenaro appeared to be crossed-out. The election was deadlocked again, this time at 408-408. The Republicans demanded another recount which the Judge granted, ordering the recount committee to perform it that day, but the vote remained the same.

With all legal options exhausted and the election needing to be certified , the only remaining solution was the drawing of lots to determine the winner. In a fitting end to the high-stake’s drama, Judge Kemp ordered representatives of both candidates to appear in his office at high-noon that Friday to draw a winner. Unlike the scene in a western movie, the instrument of choice was not pistols at ten-paces , but instead 12 checkers, each assigned a number with the higher number winning.

Neither candidate appeared at the showdown, instead being represented by a proxy. Edgar Carlson, the Republican Party Chairman represented Vosburg, while Walrath stood in for DeGenaro. Carlson was awarded first pick and turned over a checker marked 11. With the odds stacked against him, Walrath’s checker was marked with a five making Vosburg the winner.

Vosburg completed his final term and retired from politics. DeGenaro would run for mayor again four years later, losing to Ben Hutcheson by a mere 59 votes. Mansfield has never had a mayor’s race as close since and, hopefully, will never have to decide an election by the luck of the draw again.
Hometown Treasures
It's Our Stuff and We Love It!
Businesses, individuals, and events leave behind items and mementos that remind us of their existence, and which record our town's history. We will include items from our collection in each issue of the newsletter.

This month we'll show a few of the automotive items we have. Garages and auto dealerships used them to promote their businesses. The items included here have been donated by Dave Garrison and Carol Scureman.
Dahlgren Chevrolet, successor to Rose Chevrolet, established 1961 in the former Johnson Garage on South Main Street. By 1967, they had moved further south in a new building on Rte. 15. This refrigerator magnet just says Mansfield.
Mark's Sunoco was formerly Snyders's across the bridge on Rte 6 west. Mark Wilson was the proprietor. The 717 area code indicates it was issued before the 570 change in the 1990s. This is a window scraper.
Frank Williams was proprietor of Frank's Auto Care on North Main Street. This was later Roupp's and then Case's, and is now closed. This letter opener describes the service.
Upcoming Events
We are on hold for events and Art Classes for the present, but we'll be glad to see you if you stop in.

We are open for visitors noon to 3 T, W, Th or by appointment.
We're Getting Closer to our Goal
On the back of the museum is a small addition of four rooms that has been used as an apartment as far back as the 1870s, possibly originally intended as housing for the church's minister, but that's a guess.

We are remodeling this as home to our library and archives. Volunteers Jim Davies and Mary Robinson-Slabey have stripped it to its frame, and it is ready to be rebuilt.

The estimate comes to about $60,000. So far we have individual and organizational donations of over $33,000 which is a great start. We also have an additional $10,000 available which we have earned through your matching donations. Many thanks to the donors and BBQ attendees who have helped us meet that goal.

Having the library and archives in this building will cut in half the costs of operating two buildings, and it will make it more efficient to work. It will be a more unified experience for our visitors and researchers.

Although we are still short of the full requirement, we can get a good start on this major improvement to our facility. Actual work will begin shortly.

Getting Ready to Rebuild With YOUR Help!!!
Your Town, Your Ancestors, Your History

Christmas is Near. Consider a gift membership. Members will receive our 40 page printed journal by mail 4 to 6 times a year with new articles that have never been researched before and outstanding photos to illustrate. Share your love of the Mansfield area with your friends and family.
Why do we ask for donations in every newsletter? Because we have to.
It's the only way we can continue offering our important services to the community.
Your help will make it possible.
Membership- Renew for 2021
Annual memberships are an important part of keeping us operating. Please consider a new or renewed membership.

Members receive four to six issues annually of our printed journal Voices From the Archives.

Membership dollars are an important part of our operating resource. Be sure to renew your membership for 2021 or become a new member. A renewal card will be included in the next journal.
Annual Membership Levels
Family $50
Individual $35
Senior (Over 65) $25
Business Level $100
Lifetime $500
MHS Class Memorial $200

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The History Center
83 N. Main Street
Mansfield PA 16933
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Thank You to Our Gold Level Sponsors
Law Offices of Larry Mansfield
First Citizens Community Bank
Mansfield Auxiliary Corporation
Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc.
Lutes Foundation
Thank You to Our Silver Level Sponsors
Strohecker Vision
Elite Therapy
Mansfield University Foundation
Dandy Mini Marts
UGI, Inc.
The History Center on Main Street
The History Center on Main Street provided no goods or services in exchange for your contribution. Your contribution is deductible to the extent provided by law. The official registration and financial information of The History Center on Main Street, may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free, within Pennsylvania, 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement