MORRISTOWN – The scene was a bit anti-climatic. Here was an acrimonious mayoral race in Dover ending not on election night in that historic town, but around a conference table in Morristown a week later. Still, there was no way to mask the joy of Carolyn Blackman and her supporters as a Morris County Board of Elections tally of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots confirmed her win over Mayor James Dodd. In fact, Blackman’s winning margin expanded from 19 votes on election night to around 50.
She seemed a bit overwhelmed as her win became clear Tuesday morning. Then Blackman hugged her supporters and said simply, “I’m really ready to work for the people of Dover.”
She’ll have to wait until January to do that, but it’s probably the sentiment that counts.
Dodd, who didn’t attend the count, was represented by campaign manager Pablo Fonseca, who graciously congratulated the winners. Blackman ran on the Democratic ticket, while Dodd, who still called himself a Democrat, ran as an independent.
Relatively speaking, this type of ballot counting is new ground for New Jersey.
What used to be called “absentee ballots” occasionally were counted after the election, but now that any voter can do so by mail, there are many more ballots to count. The law says mail-in ballots are to be accepted if they arrive 48 hours after the polls close. That’s Thursday at 8 p.m.
There are many political jokes about the key to winning an election being not who votes, but who counts the votes. Stalin allegedly said something along those lines. That could be apocryphal, but the point is well taken.
In this case, the counting is done by boards of election who are evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.
In addition to certifying Blackman’s win, there were two other close municipal races grabbing the board’s attention.
On election night, two Republicans in Mendham Township led a Democratic candidate by eight votes and one vote respectively. Today’s count confirmed a win for the GOP.
Nonetheless, the interesting thing here is how close the election was. Not too long ago, Mendham Township, the home of Chris Christie, was so Republican, Democrats didn’t even run municipal candidates.
After losing the battle today, one township Democrat said she was looking ahead to the next election, convinced that Mendham Township is now a “purple” township.
Then there was Morris Township where Peter Mancuso, the only Republican remaining on the five-member governing body, retained his seat – just barely. Mancuso was ahead by 48 votes last week, but his lead began shrinking as ballots were counted today. In the end, he won by 13.
Mancuso, who always has been a moderate Republican, was thrilled to win, but he played down the politics of the day.
He said he gets along well with the Democrats on the township committee, describing it as a “very pleasant” situation.