A recount where the cost to taxpayers is the only sure thing

At the risk of being nicknamed “the million-dollar man,” Pittsburgh lawyer Templeton Smith Jr. remains the only losing Nov. 3 candidate still insisting on a costly – and likely fruitless - recount in the close race for a fourth seat on the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

“I’m not in this for a popularity contest,” acknowledges Smith, who is a Republican.

Now if he was a candidate from Philadelphia, people might understand his apparent willingness to let Pennsylvania taxpayers burn through up to $1.3 million that Secretary of State Pedro Cortes says a recount will cost. (Around 6 million votes were cast in the contests for three statewide appellate courts.)

After all, that’s what Harrisburg and the rest of the state expect from Philly folks - to waste the state’s money, right?

Even if it’s against regional type, Smith – as of this afternoon - was still insisting on a recount. For one thing, he questions whether it will cost as much as the Democratic Rendell administration says. (So it’s okay to waste less money?)

But Smith says he’s mostly interested in honoring the state legislature’s intent in passing a law some years ago that mandated automatic recounts when races are so close.

For now, Democrat and Philadelphia judge Anne E. Lazarus stands as the winner. The next runner-up, also a Democratc, has waived his right to a recount – as has another Democrat who finished behind Smith. (Full disclosure: The Editorial Board endorsed Lazarus, whom the state bar association lauded for her “superior writing ability, knowledge … and exceptional judicial temperament.”)

While Smith is right enough that the legislature mandated the recount, the law also provided candidates with the discretion to waive a count if there were no evidence of fraud. That’s certainly the case here. And with the prevalence of electronic voting across the state, it seems unlikely the outcome will differ.

Then again, that “million-dollar man” would be a pretty unique nickname to own.