CAPE MAY — The mayor’s race has shifted with the first batch of absentee ballots giving incumbent Ed Mahaney the lead over challenger Rusty Chew.

After the polls closed, Chew was ahead 547-545, but Cape May County was still counting absentee ballots. Those totals released late Tuesday night gave Mahaney a 666-647 edge. The 19-vote margin, however, may not be the final tally as Hurricane Sandy has led to an extension for absentee ballots that can now be received as late as Nov. 19. Vote totals will be reported as they are counted.

“I understand they may not know until Nov. 19. There’s a school of stripers coming down the beach. I’m going fishing,” said Chew, 56, of Yacht Avenue. He is.a retired police sergeant here in his first political campaign

Mahaney, 67, of Ohio Avenue, has never had this close of a race in the four previous elections here, all of which he won.

“I’m just awaiting the outcome and I’m very positive and I appreciate the support I’ve gotten from the voters of Cape May,” Mahaney said.

The other race here, for a seat on City Council, was not close. Incumbent City Councilwoman Terri Swain tallied 420 votes to win her second term. Swain, of Lafayette Street, is a Cape May native and owner of Swain’s Hardware.

Shaine Meier, 27, of Vermont Avenue, who ran in 2010 for council, came in second with 337 votes. Daniel Kurkowski, 33, a Corgie Street resident and son of former councilman David Kurkowski, picked up 319 votes.

These totals are also unofficial _ they do not include absentee ballots _ but there are not enough to change the outcome.

Fulginiti said she hoped to have some absentee ballots counted late Tuesday night but said that due to U.S. Postal Service problems caused by Hurricane Sandy, some absentees could be counted as late as Nov. 19 as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 5. Fulginiti said 666 absentee ballots for the entire county haven’t come back in the mail, while about 6,000 were being counted.

Fulginiti also said electronic ballots, accepted for voters impacted by Hurricane Sandy and first responders, and provisional ballots can be counted up until Friday.

“There are a number of votes that will not be available tonight,” said Fulginiti on Tuesday night shortly after polls closed.

Chew had a party at his Yacht Avenue home and he said his supporters were very happy with his two-vote lead.

“I have a household of people who are really happy, for now. I’m a political newcomer and it’s extremely difficult to unseat an incumbent. I know I have a significant number of absentee ballots but I don’t know how much the other side has,” said Chew.

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