STEUBENVILLE - Robert Steve Vukelic won the Democrat nomination for the Jan. 2 Jefferson County commissioner seat by two votes in Tuesday's primary election, according to unofficial results from the county board of elections.
Vukelic, 55, of 1122 Pierce Ave., Toronto, received 2,915 votes, edging out second-place finisher Bob Smith, 51, of 209 Penn Ave., Mingo Junction, who received 2,913 votes. Terry Bell, 66, of 1060 county Road 54, Richmond, received 2,549 votes.
The close finish between Vukelic and Smith will most likely result in a recount after the election results are certified by the county elections board on March 22.
Vukelic said he was surprised by the close vote.
"It was a clean race. Congratulations to Bob and Terry for that. We'll wait for the recount and see how it goes," Vukelic said.
The winner of the Democrat race will face Republican David Maple, the incumbent, in the November general election.
Vukelic said he was disappointed in the low voter turnout.
"That is sad," he said.
County Commissioner Tom Gentile was unopposed on the Democrat ballot for the Jan. 3 seat. Craig B. Petrella of 153 Hiddenwood Drive, Steubenville, filed as an independent against Gentile in the November general election. No Republican filed for the post.
Just like four years ago, the issue of whether Vukelic can take office will have to be settled if he wins in November. Vukelic was sentenced to six months in a federal prison in April 2001 after pleading guilty to misprison of a felony, which is having knowledge of a felony and not reporting it to authorities.
Vukelic was charged in connection with other federal indictments against former employees and officials of the former North Ohio Valley Air Authority. Three former members of NOVAA pleaded guilty in federal court to charges they conspired to accept improper payments totaling about $170,000 from Vukelic to get a license for the demolition landfill and then hid the income from the Internal Revenue Service.