Two days after a primary election that was too close to call, Council member Jo Butler was declared the winner of the race for one of two available seats on the governing body, leading challenger Sue Nemeth by six votes. Council president Bernie Miller, who earned the most votes, will run in the November general election for the other Council seat.
“I think it’s important that we move on,” Mayor Liz Lempert said Monday in response to questions about the election. “We have a really big agenda ahead of us and we need to concentrate on the important work.”
With Ms. Butler only three votes ahead at the conclusion of voting last Tuesday, the race was turned over to the Mercer County Board of Elections in order to review 11 provisional ballots that were cast in the election. A provisional ballot is used to record a vote if a voter’s eligibility is in question and the voter would otherwise not be permitted to vote at his or her polling place.
Five of the ballots were validated, four of which were for Ms. Butler and one for Ms. Nemeth. Mr. Miller’s tally immediately after the election was 1,602 votes. Following the provisional ballot count, Ms. Butler earned 1,547 and Ms. Nemeth won 1,541. Mr. Miller and Ms. Nemeth, both members of the former Township Committee, had run together on a slate in an effort to oust Ms. Butler, who had been a member of Borough Council before consolidation. Mayor Lempert and Council members Heather Howard and Lance Liverman were supporters of the Miller/Nemeth slate.
Ms. Butler said this week that she had been “cautiously optimistic” before the election. “I had done a lot of door-to-door and gotten a lot of pretty positive feedback, but the odds were incredibly challenging,” she said. “I feel fortunate and grateful for the support of the voters. I’m looking forward to focusing on the business of the town rather than the campaign.”
Ms. Nemeth conceded to Ms. Butler immediately following the provisional ballot count. “Sue was gracious in defeat and I appreciate that,” Ms. Butler said. “Bernie is on a European holiday but I did hear from him and I appreciate that, too. We’ll have a better sense of it when we meet face to face.”
Ms. Nemeth said Monday that she hopes voters will support Ms. Butler and Mr. Miller, as well as others running for office, in the November election. “I certainly encourage everyone to get behind our two nominees. And there are other races in our district that are important to the voters,” she said, singling out Bonnie Watson Coleman’s upcoming run for Congress.
Ms. Nemeth said she looks forward to “mending all the fences. I fought as hard as I could,” she said. “The three of us know full well how hard this is. We give a lot of ourselves, give up a lot of time with our families. Jo and I both have day jobs that are demanding and I fully appreciate what she has given to this role, and I respect her service.”
At the Council meeting on Monday evening, Mayor Lempert offered her congratulations to Ms. Butler. Earlier in the day, she said she had attended Ms. Butler’s victory party and brought her flowers.