Republican Linda Schwabenbauer, left, with state Senator Jennifer Beck and running mate Sean Di Somma, far right, as returns were tallied Tuesday night. Below, Ed Zipprich, seen at right through a ladder at Democratic headquarters with his husband, J.P. Nicolaides and former Mayor Ed McKenna, at left. (Photo above by John T. Ward, below by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Or so it appeared late Tuesday night.
GOP newcomer Linda Schwabenbauer and Democratic incumbent Ed Zipprich were neck-and-neck in the race for two council seats. And though the two parties differed on vote totals, both candidates appeared to have outpolled Zipprich running mate Juanita Lewis by about two dozen votes.
The clear loser, for the second year in a row, was Republican Sean Di Somma, who conceded defeat early in the evening.
Mayor Pasquale Menna, a Democrat, was elected to a third four-year term. He was unopposed on the ballot.
As of 11 p.m., the Monmouth County Clerk’s website showed only about half the votes counted, leaving the two parties to tally numbers run into their respective headquarters by the faithful.
The Republicans, gathered in the real estate office of former council member Jim Giannell, initially had the finish as Zipprich, 1,233; Schwabenbauer, 1,231; Lewis, 1,218; and Di Somma, 1,133, with an estimated 147 absentee ballots not yet counted.
At about 11:15, the Republicans said a count of the absentees had Schwabenbauer as the top vote-getter, with a 26- vote lead over Zipprich.
The Democrats, rallying in a vacant storefront on Broad Street, had it as Schwabenbauer, 1,237; Zipprich, 1,234; Lewis, 1,210. The number for Di Somma was not immediately posted, and the Democrats did not have a count on the absentees and provisionals.
Democratic officials who had expected to get updated information about the absentee and provisional votes in short order from Freehold were later resigned to having to wait until morning for better information.
“We think we should prevail on the absentees,” former Mayor Ed McKenna told redbankgreen, as the Democrats’ party began breaking up. “The question is are we going to prevail enough to get Juanita in?”
A Schwabenbauer victory would bolster the the breakthrough GOP win of a year ago, when Cindy Burnham knocked Democrat Sharon Lee off the dais and ended a five-year absence for her party.
Having gotten into the race in August, Schwabenbauer said the win was “somewhat surprising to me,” and that she was “proud to join Cindy Burnham on the council.”