Vote-by-mail totals narrowed the gap Wednesday in the 2nd Legislative District Assembly race to fewer than 300 votes, or 0.3 percent of all votes cast.
But Republican Assemblymen Chris Brown and John Amodeo remained on top.
Election officials now turn to the 1,164 provisional ballots cast in the 2nd District, which were issued to voters who ran into problems at the polls. Paula S. Dunn, chairwoman of the Atlantic County Board of Elections, said the board plans to start counting provisional ballots at 10 a.m. Friday.
With the new vote-by-mail totals, Amodeo holds a 274-vote lead over the top Democratic vote-getter, Northfield Mayor Vince Mazzeo.
The difference is less than the 1,354 polled by the independent candidate, Gary Stein, suggesting he may have played a role in the election.
“Oh, I definitely did,” Stein said Wednesday morning, saying his hand-painted road signs that promoted Brown cost Amodeo votes. “It was because of me that Mazzeo got so close.”
The Democratic candidates declined to concede the Assembly race Tuesday because of how close it was. On Wednesday, Mazzeo said he wanted to wait until Friday to decide.
He said the final results would depend on where the provisional ballots come from. If a large portion came from Democratic strongholds in Atlantic City and Pleasantville, he said that could help him.
Amodeo said he felt the voters had spoken, and now the matter was out of his hands. He said he planned to wait patiently until Friday.
“What can I do? I can’t do nothing, and whatever the outcome is, is the outcome,” he said. Amodeo said he would continue working for the district if elected, and if he loses, he would first congratulate and then offer any assistance to the winner.
There were 7,415 vote-by-mail ballots cast in the 2nd District race, Dunn said. State law changes in recent years have replaced absentee ballots with vote-by-mail ballots.
Mazzeo’s 1,910 mail-in votes were the most in the district, followed by Brown’s 1,832, Amodeo’s 1,805 and Democratic Longport Mayor Nick Russo’s 1,765.
Stein received 103 mail-in votes.
In the state Senate race, Democratic Sen. Jim Whelan received 2,275 mail-in votes. Atlantic County Sheriff Frank X. Balles, the Republican candidate, received 1,771.
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