Iris counted and recounted the votes during the five-minute recess. It was difficult to concentrate with a room full of Valley residents, all loudly sharing their thoughts.
Half the votes were counted, and Raymond held a considerable lead. With 53 percent of the vote so far, Cooper could win the mayor’s race outright.
Cooper and his supporters had been worried Juliet Stoughton’s late entry into the race might hurt his chances of collecting more than 50 percent, a necessity to avoid a run-off with the obvious second choice, Dick Bland. There was concern Bland might fare better with another week to campaign. Thankfully, it looked like Cooper’s tactics had worked and enough voters were frantic about the Federal Reserve System to carry their champion to victory.
Juliet had already surprised everyone by collecting 19 percent of the vote. Though still far behind Bland, who was selected on 29 percent of the ballots, she had no reason to be ashamed.
As the last chorus of "One Day at a Time" blared from the boombox on stage, Vera Pinrod brought the room to a hush as she roared, "Stoughton!" A tally was placed under Juliet’s name on the board.
A few Cooper supporters hissed, then giggled, to indicate their lack of concern. Their candidate needed only 47 percent of the remaining.
Outside, where hundreds of good folks gathered to listen over speakers, someone shouted, "Yes!"
It was none other than Jessie, the waitress at the ‘Brau, who originally suggested Juliet should get in the race.
"Cooper!" shouted Vera. Then, "Stoughton!"
More cheers, mostly from females.
"Cooper!" Vera roared.
"Stoughton," she continued. "And another vote for Stoughton!"
There was a murmur throughout the room. Iris looked at her count. Still far behind Mayor Bland, Juliet was showing momentum.
"Cooper! Stoughton! Stoughton! Bland! Stoughton! Cooper!" Vera shouted the votes purposely as the count reached the 90-minute mark.
Iris gave up trying to tallying votes on her reporter’s pad. Vera called out names almost faster than Iris could mark them on the page.
Finally, like a runner sprinting to the finish line, Vera read the names on the final stack of ballots.
"Cooper!" she shouted. Next she yelled, "Bland!" creating a stir from the Baptist section, eerily silent since the mid-count break.
"Stoughton!" Vera drew a deep breath. "And the final vote is for Juliet Stoughton."
Farley Puckett was beside himself as he looked over to see his wife cheering along with other women gathered outside the town hall.
Chief of Police Buford Dibble eyed the crowd carefully, looking for any signs of a potential riot while Vera and the two precinct coordinators scratched their chins as they peered at the tally board and looked over their notes.
The crowd silenced as Vera approached the microphone.
"The final vote is as follows," Vera began. "Dick Bland: 229 votes."
The crowd took a collective breath.
"Raymond Cooper: 466 votes."
A murmur turned into conversations before Chief Dibble quieted the audience.
"Juliet Stoughton: 231 votes."
"Mickey Mouse, Ima Goose and Ronald Reagan had eight votes between them."
"Oh, my!" Iris whispered as she checked her figures.
Beatrice Justice, overhearing Iris, turned to her and said, "Ecclesiastes 1:2."