First-time candidate William “Hank” Lyon of Montville is the unofficial winner of the Republican nomination for Morris County freeholder, following a painstaking count Thursday of 82 provisional ballots.
Lyon, 23, maintained a 10-vote lead over 12-year veteran freeholder Margaret Nordstrom of Washington Township. After the examination and counting of the provisional ballots by the Morris County Board of Elections, each candidate picked up an additional 14 votes, bringing the primary election vote to 12,276 for Lyon and 12,266 for Nordstrom.
Nordstrom’s campaign manager, Alan Zakin, said the incumbent will seek a recount focusing on the 2,000 mail-in ballots cast during the primary.
“I’m extremely humbled,” Lyon said. He was present during the ballot examination.
He said while he felt he could win, he did not expect a 10-vote margin.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to bring a conservative voice to the freeholder board,” Lyon said. The freeholder board is currently made up entirely of Republicans, but Lyon has said he'd bring a more conservative approach to certain issues.
The Republican winner will face Democrat Truscha Quatrone of Montville in the November general election. Quatrone ran unopposed in her party's primary Tuesday.
The election board on Thursday first examined 28 provisional ballots that were initially disqualified, to determine why that was the case. Representatives from each candidate were present during the process.
In the case of 25 of those ballots, the board found that a Democratic Party voter had tried to vote in the Republican primary, or the ballot was cast by an unregistered voter. The three ballots that were found to be properly cast were added to 54 others that were also properly cast, but had been questioned by poll workers Tuesday for various reasons.
The board of elections volunteers, equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, then examined those 57 ballots.
Each group of volunteers then counted the other group’s ballots to ensure accuracy.
Of the 57 ballots, 28 were determined to be Republican ballots, and each freeholder candidate received 14 votes, Board of Elections Chairman John Sette said.
Counts have come slowly and with suspense in the GOP primary race for the open freeholder seat. Election night, a count of votes couldn't be completed because a voting machine from East Hanover malfunctioned. The votes that could be counted Tuesday showed a race too close to call; Lyon appeared just 6 votes ahead.
Once the votes from that last machine were counted Wednesday, the race stayed extremely close. Lyon's lead only grew to 10 votes.
Nordstrom has been instrumental in the freeholders’ budget process in recently years that has lowered the tax rate for the past three years. Nordstrom said the county has reduced its workforce by 16 percent since 2007. She has said freeholders were using program-based budgeting to reduce costs even before the state imposed a 2 percent cap on year-over-year tax growth (which prompted many other governing bodies to do the same). She helped create the board’s airport advisory board that 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 county freeholders, the Morris County Chamber of Commerce, the county college, the county technical high school and business leaders to discuss 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 county to reduce the amount of truck traffic and promote economic growth.
Lyon works for his family restaurant business. He graduated from The College of Holy Cross with a double major in physics and mathematics.
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’ plan for a new public safety center in Parsippany, and the use of tax funds for open space purchases (a dedicated tax voters approved in 1994). He has questioned the approach the county took to create a solar-energy program that is expected to save $3.8 million in taxes over 15 years.