James P. Hilty won the Ocala City Council’s District 5 seat defeating Greg Steen Tuesday night.
Hilty took 50.71% of the vote in the citywide election defeating Steen by a vote of 4,503 to 4,377 (49.29%), according to unofficial results from the Marion County Supervisor of Elections Office.
“It was nerve-wracking,” said Hilty via phone Tuesday night. “Actually, I’m not even sure with it being as close as it is just yet that I’ve won. But I’m happy and excited about tonight’s race. Greg and I have developed a great friendship throughout this thing and we always said ‘May the best man win. No matter who that may be.’”
In order to trigger an automatic recount, the final vote difference must be .5% or less, according to Wesley Wilcox, Marion County Supervisor of Elections.
Hilty, 71, previously represented District 5 on the Ocala City Council from 2013-2017. He lost his seat in 2017 to Justin Grabelle. Grabelle announced he would not seek re-election for seat. The decision spurred Hilty to try another run.
He received 2,138 election-day votes and 2,365 votes by mail, while Steen received 2,423 election-day votes and 1,954 votes by mail.
He said there are so many things he would like to do for this city.
“Given this opportunity, I’m going to do that for them,” said Hilty.
Hilty said he watched as his initial lead shrank during the evening.
“Not to say anything negative,” said Hilty of Steen, “but he did put in $40,000 plus of his own money—$60,000 to my $20,000. Did I use it smarter? Was it my reputation? Who knows? But he’s been working at this for two years, so I give him credit.”
James Hilty had reported $21,400.10 in contributions with $325 coming in the last reporting period. For the same reporting period, Steen had raised $60,783.89, with $11,300 of the $11,750 coming from his own wallet.
Steen responded via text message Tuesday night.
“Congratulations to Jim, it was a clean race,” wrote Steen.
This was Steen’s first time running for public office. He is President of Family’s Choice Electric Repair Inc.
Results are unofficial until the final Canvassing Board meets and certifies the election. Council members are elected to four-year terms with a monthly salary of $250. Newly elected council members take seats on Dec. 7. The District 5 seat represents the northeast area of Ocala.