By TOM TIGANI
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE — Former Southgate Community School District Board of Education member Joseph Kuspa finished first in Tuesday’s three-man mayoral primary and will face former Mayor Dennis David in the Nov. 3 general election.
Kuspa received 1,730 votes to 664 for David and 401 for local businessman Ernest Abercrombie Jr.
“We were optimistic,” Kuspa said of himself and his campaign staff, “but we didn’t anticipate such overall voter support. That overwhelming support means my message was resonating.
“I’m extremely and sincerely grateful for the voters’ response and truly humbled by their support.”
“I’m thrilled to make it through the first cut and looking forward to a good campaign and hopefully pulling this off in November,” David said.
Of Kuspa’s big showing, the former city police officer said, “He got me good.”
David said he can only attribute some of that to a late start, explaining that he didn’t want to start campigning till Aug. 1.
“I thought six weeks would be adequate,” he said. “Apparently I was wrong.
“The numbers are very telling. I have a lot of work to do.”
Also planning to do more work to return to the ballot for future public office in the city is Abercrombie.
“I’m disappointed that I didn’t come out on top,” he said. “I listened to the voters, and I thought the city wanted to go in a new direction. I guess not.
“I appreciate the 400 votes that I did get.”
In a way, Abercrombie said, he believes he did win because outgoing Mayor Norma Wurmlinger did not run for the job again, partly because he decided to throw his hat into the ring.
Abercrombie, a six-year city resident, said voters had led him to believe length of residency made no difference. But he said that Kuspa’s lifetime residency and a “political machine” that includes Wurmlinger’s endorsement may have helped turn the tide.
“I learned a lot, and I appreciate all the support,” Abercrombie said. “I’ll be back.”
He said he still has a following within the city and will regroup for another run at the City Council in a couple of years.
Kuspa, meanwhile said he’s not going to rest on his laurels, calling his primary win a “tremendous springboard.”
“We are going to work this thing,” he said of the general election campaign. “Our volunteers are totally energized, and we’re going door to door meet residents, discuss issues and meet challenges.
“We’re not slowing down here.”
David said a forum at City Hall earlier this month featuring the three candidates could have made a difference to those who saw it live in the primary’s outcome, but that because of a technical problem, the program was neither recorded nor rebroadcast.
He also credited the other two candidates for “running a clean campaign with no name calling.”