By PETE WALTON
Democrats are hopeful of retaking control of Neptune City government, though the contest remains close and some ballots are yet to be counted.
Only 46 votes separate the top three candidates for two full-term seats on the Borough Council at press time.
With 99 percent of paper ballots processed, incumbent Democrats Pamela Renee and Glen Kocsis lead with 1349 and 1319 votes, respectively.
However, Republican challenger Rob Burr trails Kocsis by only 16 votes with 1303. His running mate, Michaela O’Brien, is in fourth place with 1261 votes.
Just 10 votes separate the two candidates to fill a one-year unexpired term.
Democrat newcomer John Pietrunti has 1315 votes and incumbent Republican Brian Sullivan 1305, according to the latest returns announced by Monmouth County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon.
The 99 percent figure includes ballots which were put into secure drop boxes, and ones which were deposited at polling places on Election Day. Residents with disabilities had access to voting machines in person and just more than half of those votes have been counted.
The counting of provisional ballots is nearly complete, with 94 percent tallied so far.
Currently, there are three Republicans and three Democrats on the council. Republican Mayor Andrew Wardell casts a vote in the event of a tie.
The GOP would need to win at least one of the seats up for election this year in order to keep control of borough government.
Wardell’s current term as mayor runs through 2023. The term of Democrat David Calhoun ends on Dec. 31, 2021, as does the term of the winner of this year’s election for the unexpired seat.
Renee was elected to the council in 2014. She was reelected three years later before losing to Wardell in the mayoral race last year. Kocsis was elected in 2017. In January, Sullivan was appointed to fill the vacancy created when Wardell was elected mayor.
The terms of Republicans Brian Thomas and Danielle Pappas run through 2022.
So far, more than 1,000 additional votes have been cast in the 2020 election than were recorded in 2019. Traditionally, vote totals are much higher in a presidential election year.
According to the most recent estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Neptune City is 4,596.