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Mayor Loses Job on Coin Toss

November 18, 1998

GILBERT, Minn. (AP) _ This tiny Iron Range town has a new mayor thanks to a fateful coin flip broadcast live this morning on NBC’s ``Today″ show.

Karl Oberstar Jr., who challenged incumbent Mayor Ed Schneider in the general election, became the new mayor shortly after 7 a.m. when Schneider called heads.

``I’m very happy and very grateful,″ said Oberstar, who had predicted that he would lose on the coin toss. ``I hope I can be of service for the next two years.″

The candidates, who have been friends for many years, went to the unusual tie-breaker after each received 534 votes during the general election. On election night, Oberstar thought he had won by three votes until a recount demanded by Schneider showed the candidates had actually tied.

Eighty-one percent of the town’s registered voters turned out at the polls.

Secretary of State Joan Growe presided over the coin flip, which is a legal and accepted means of deciding ties in statewide elections.

``If we have ever had an example of every vote counting, this is it,″ said Growe, who asked Schneider to call the coin in the air. ``Minnesotans take their elections and politics very seriously as you can see here in Gilbert.″

``Today″ show cameras zoomed in on the coin after it fell to the carpet in the council chambers of City Hall. Afterward, Schneider, dressed in red tie and sport coat, shook Oberstar’s hand and congratulated him.

The ``Today″ show carried the coin flip live for its East Coast viewers and replayed the segment in the Midwest shortly after 8 a.m.

It was the second time in Gilbert history that the mayor’s race was decided by a coin toss. The last flip was in 1981 when Bob King and James Sandstrom were tied for the seat. Sandstrom won.

Gilbert, a town of 1,910 residents, is about 65 miles north of Duluth in northeastern Minnesota.

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