New Mayor of Edmond, Oklahoma

Dan O'Neil, 72, was elected Edmond, Okla., mayor Tuesday over a deceased candidate.

EDMOND, Okla. – Dan O’Neil heaved a sigh of relief Tuesday night. He defeated a popular but dead candidate for mayor of this Oklahoma City suburb.

“Honored, humbled and thrilled,” said O’Neil, 72, who overcame a campaign to elect his deceased ballot opponent so the city council could appoint the next mayor.

O’Neil won 4,385 votes, or 67 percent, while Charles Lamb, a former three-term mayor who died in office on Dec. 11, garnered 2,159 votes, or 33 percent.

Lamb, 72, had filed for another term shortly before his death from a cardiac issue, too late to remove his name from the ballot.

His supporters promptly began raising money to elect the dearly departed out of fear O’Neil would discontinue initiatives for business growth that Lamb had championed as mayor.

O’Neil served one term as mayor, from 2007 to 2009. Lamb was a beloved community figure who rallied business interests around his program for growth.

It was the first time Edmond voters were faced with a choice between a living candidate and one without a pulse. O’Neil supporters feared the city would be embarrassed if he lost the election to a posthumous opponent.

It is rare, but not unprecedented. Eighteen years ago, for example, Missouri voters elected an incumbent governor, Mel Carnahan, to the U.S. Senate even though he had died three weeks earlier in a plane crash.

O’Neil was thankful that didn’t happen in Edmond, a thriving Oklahoma City suburb of 94,000. He promised to work to unite the town and “engage the next generation of community leaders.”

Mark Codner is the editor of the Edmond, Okla., Sun. Contact him at mcodner@edmondsun.com.