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Tie-breaking candidates pull numbers from a bottle

June 13, 1997

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ David Schade shook one of the 51 numbered, marble-sized balls from a leather flask that looked part salad dressing bottle and part bull’s hoof. Out came No. 23, crushing his opponent’s draw that didn’t live up to its name _ No. 1.

There was no money involved in Thursday’s casino-like venture. But the Democrat’s mayoral nomination in the Brentwood suburb was on the line.

``I’ve got my lucky coins with me, and I said 50 prayers,″ Schade said.

Schade and Fred Swanson tied at 877 votes each in the May 20 primary.

In an age of high-tech democracy, candidates who tie in Pennsylvania forego run-off elections for the cruder rules of luck _ rolling dice, flipping coins or pulling chits from a jar. A 60-year-old law requires the tie-breaking games of chance.

With 4,600 candidates on primary ballots in Allegheny County alone, and a small pool of voters in some races, the odds for a tie are surprisingly high.

``Thank God this part of it’s over,″ said Pauline Abdullah, dropping her head on her folded arms after winning the Democratic mayoral bid in the mill town of Braddock. Abdullah drew an 18, beating Thomas Napolitano’s No. 6.

``They always say that one vote doesn’t mean anything,″ Napolitano said. ``Well, here’s where it counts.″

The political gambling may seem odd but it’s not a Pennsylvania novelty.

Republican Randall Luthi settled a tie for a Wyoming House seat in 1994 when a pingpong ball bearing his name was drawn from the battered cowboy hat.

Pennsylvania officials said lot drawings are unusual enough that voters are willing to tolerate them. They also said it adds an important sense of finality since a run-off election could end in a tie, too.

But even Schade wishes voters would have the last say.

``It’s a shame we can’t get more people to get out and vote so we can have the will of the people and not the will of the lot,″ he said.

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