Republican challenger William “Hank” Lyon of Montville has a 10-point lead over incumbent Margaret Nordstrom in their party's primary election, a final vote Wednesday showed.
But Lyon's narrow victory is an uncertain one; 44 provisional ballots have yet to be counted. Provisional ballots are those used to record votes when a voter's eligibility is in question, and requires further review.
The tally was delayed because of a broken voting machine from East Hanover. A court order allowed the machine to be opened and the votes counted.
Lyon received 12,262 votes and Nordstrom 12,252.
Before the latest count, Lyon appeared to have a 6-vote margin over Nordstrom, a 12-year freeholder from Washington Township.
But Morris County Board of Elections Chairman John Sette said there are 44 provisional ballots yet to be counted. They will be counted Monday, Sette said, unless he can get them counted sooner.
The Republican winner will face Democrat Truscha Quatrone of Montville in the November general election. Quatrone ran unopposed in her party's primary Tuesday.
Lyon said it appears the election could result in a recount.
Nordstrom at the Wednesday morning freeholder meeting said she was “okay no matter what.”
Sette said the Morris Republicans have an open primary, so anything can happen.
“This is how I became a freeholder. It is how (Nordstrom) became a freeholder,” Sette said.
Lyon, 23, works for his family’s restaurant company.
“I expected to win,” he said Wednesday. “I knocked on doors and worked very hard.”
He said he began researching the freeholder board last fall and decided to enter the race in January.
“I thought I could have more impact at the freeholder level,” he said. “I think I can bring a more conservative voice to the freeholder board."
As he spoke with Morris County residents during the campaign, he said, he heard three major concerns: “Spending, taxes and debt.”
Lyon also heard a general dissatisfaction with the incumbent freeholders, hesaid.
One key to Lyon’s showing was a 586-vote margin in his hometown. He gained a larger vote margin in his own hometown than Nordstrom did in hers (Nordstrom had a 434-vote margin in Washington Township).
Turnout was also a factor, with 1,976 Republican voters casting ballots in Montville, representing 15.6 percent of registered Republicans in that town.
There were 1,364 Republican voters, or 25.78 percent of registered Republicans, casting ballots in Washington Township.
In Morristown, where 415 Republican voters cast ballots (representing 24.88 percent of registered Republicans in town), only a total of 365 votes were cast for freeholder. Nordstrom received 226 votes and Lyon received 138.
Across the county, 26.4 percent of registered Republicans voted on Tuesday.
Nordstrom has been a freeholder since 1999 and was director from 2006 to 2008.
Nordstrom has been instrumental in the freeholders’ budget process in recent years—a process that has lowered the tax rate for the past three years. Nordstrom said the county has reduced it workforce by 16 percent since 2007. She said the freeholders were using program-based budgeting to reduce costs even before the state imposed a 2 percent cap on year-over-year tax levy growth..
She helped create the board’s airport advisory board, which oversees issues at the county’s airports, primarily Morristown Municipal Airport. She also helped create the board’s economic development subcommittee, which has brought together the freeholders, the Morris County Chamber of Commerce, the county's college and technical high school, and the area's business leaders to discuss and find solutions for issues that confront local businesses.
She also is a member of the board’s freight rail advisory board, which is working to find ways to create more rail use in the count to reduce the amount of truck traffic and promote economic growth.
Lyon, who works for his family restaurant business, was seeking his first elective office.
He said the freeholders have not cut taxes in the recent years, seeing an increase of 6.3 percent annually.
He also criticized the freeholders’ plans for a new public safety center in Parsippany, the use of tax funds for open space purchases (although voters approved the tax in 1994), and questioned the approach the county took to create a solar-energy program that is intended to save $3.8 million in taxes over 15 years.
Note: An earlier version of this story misstated some voter turnout figures, or included wording that was potentially confusing regarding the figures. The statements have been corrected.