ATLANTIC CITY — Election results updated Wednesday put 5th Ward City Council candidate Sharon Zappia closer to victory, which is rare for a Republican here

Zappia tallied 377 votes to Democrat Rizwan Malik’s 370, breaking the 347-vote deadlock from polls Tuesday, Atlantic County election results show.

Atlantic City 6th Ward Councilman Tim Mancuso, a Democrat in office 20 years, kept his lead over Republican challenger Jesse Kurtz with 694 votes to 674 votes, Atlantic County election results show.

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That 20-ballot margin is narrower than Mancuso’s 27-vote advantage Tuesday based only on poll votes. The new counts also include mail-in ballots.

County officials also must count provisional votes, which they don’t plan to do until Monday.  But estimates provided by candidates suggest provisionals could sway outcomes as they stand now.

Kurtz said 33 voters submitted provisional ballots in the 6th Ward; Zappia said about 37 did so in the 5th Ward.

Kurtz, Malik and Zappia said they intend to challenge at least some provisional ballots, if needed, Monday. Mancuso has not responded to repeated calls for comment placed to his cell phone during the past three days.

A Republican victory would be the first for a challenger in a partisan election in the resort since before 1982. At that time, the city changed its form of government and held non-partisan elections for the next two decades. A referendum passed by voters in 2000 brought party affiliations back into the mix.

Mancuso and outgoing Councilman Dennis Mason — both currently Democrats — won as a Republicans in 2003. But they were incumbents, and Mason didn’t face a challenger. Both men switched their affiliation shortly thereafter, as did many others.

Second Ward Councilman Marty Small attributed the rare situation to a combination of voter apathy and dual frustration with negative campaigning as well as local government — attitudes present in Atlantic City as well as other communities.

“We can all improve government on the local level — the administration and city council, cutting taxes,” said Small, who was unchallenged Tuesday in his pursuit of a third term. “I’m just glad they had faith in me for another four years, particularly with what I’ve been through.”

One year ago Wednesday, opening arguments began for Small’s voter-fraud trial — his second. It ended with his acquittal, as did the previous one.

Local Republican Committee chairman Mark Padula said the outcome thus far for the city’s 5th and 6th wards is “unheard of.” But he had a different take on the factors at play.

“I attribute it to the lack of leadership in Atlantic City and the direction this administration is going,” Padula said Wednesday. “Obviously, there’s no regard for the taxpayer — constant spending without regard to budgets, constant hiring without regard to hiring freezes. The residents are waking up.”

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