Braden claims victory after tie, two recounts and 'game of chance'

Matt Algarin
Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux cuts the cards before a “game of chance” which will decide who clinches the third and final city council seat. After a recount, it was determined that Tom Weidenhamer and Rodney Braden were locked in a bona-fide tie.

The queen of spades decided who would round out the Destin City Council.

In the event of a tie, Florida election law states that “a game of chance,” pre-determined by both candidates, will decide who wins the seat.

To see a video of the 'game of chance,' CLICK HERE.

Candidates Rodney Braden and Tom Weidenhamer agreed to a game of high card. Braden drew the queen, while Weidenhamer pulled a 5.

"That was crazy," Braden said via phone while pulling out of the Crestview elections office building. "I'm excited."

On election night, Braden held a slim, one-vote lead over Weidenhamer with two provisional ballots left to be counted. After the ballots were examined Friday, one was validated and the vote tied. Given the tie, a machine recount ensued, followed by a manual recount and ultimately the game of chance.

"In this case, it was the luck of the draw," Weidenhamer said of the results. "I wish all the best to Mr. Rodney; he has the best intentions for the city."

Okaloosa Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux said this is the first “bona-fide” tie in the county in recent memory. Lux keeps a factory-sealed deck of cards, dice, and challenge coins in his desk for just such an occasion.

“I have a number of options available, but this is the first time we have had to use ‘em,” he said.

This is the second consecutive race Weidenhamer has lost during a recount. In 2012, Cyron Marler beat Weidenhamer by only 28 votes.

Braden is a lifelong Destin resident and the owner of Rodney's Home Repair.

Braden, along with fellow election winners Jim Foreman, Prebble Ramswell and incoming mayor Mel Ponder, will be sworn into office during Monday night's Destin City Council meeting, which will begin at 6 p.m. and will be held at the City Hall Annex (next to the Dog Park).

Voters elect old, new faces to council

With the recount complete, two newcomers join an incumbent on the Destin City Council.

Jim Foreman earned his re-election bid, collecting a total of 685 votes, or 16.10 percent of the total votes cast, while newcomer Prebble Ramswell was the election's top receiver grabbing 836 votes (19.65 percent). After a recount Friday, Rodney Braden took the third city council seat with 578 votes (13.58 percent).

With changes to the city's tier system and the stabilization of Norriego Point of pressing concern for the council, both Foreman and Ramswell say they are ready to get down to business.

"We've got some real challenges ahead of us," Foreman told The Log Thursday. "That strip club is going to be tough; there's no winning in that."

As the race's only incumbent, Foreman didn't make too much of a fuss out of the election night uncertainty. He said he fired up his computer after the polls closed and began to search for the results.

"I'm obviously very happy about it," he said of his re-election. "It's a long-term type of thing and I really enjoy working with the city staff and the other council members."

The reaction was quite different at the Ramswell home, where friends and family had gathered for a little get together Tuesday night.

As for whether or not her eyes were glued to the web, anxiously awaiting the vote totals, Ramswell said they were.

"We kept hitting refresh on the Internet," she said. "It was very emotional."

When the early voting and absentee votes first came through, Ramswell said she was stunned by the numbers she saw.

"I thought they were reported by the leader and that I wasn't even in the top five," she said with a chuckle. "I was relieved that it was actually in alphabetical order."

Ramswell told The Log that she never would have imagined being the top vote taker, but she was completely humbled by the support she has received.

"It's kinda hard to wrap my head around it," she said. "It really hit me yesterday (Wednesday) when I was crossing the (Destin) bridge to leave out of town."


A total of 1,632 ballots were cast in the city of Destin, a 17.2 percent voter turnout.

Prebble Ramswell — 836 (19.65 percent)

Jim Foreman — 685 (16.10 percent)

Rodney Braden — 578 (13.58 percent)

Tom Weidenhamer — 577 (13.56 percent)

Scott Jacobs  —  523  (12.29 percent) 

Larry Hines  — 504  (11.84 percent) 

Skip Overdier  — 298  (7.005 percent)

Matthew Pace  — 253  (5.947 percent)