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Celeste Fernandez

After Risley 381-vote win in Atlantic, Fernandez will seek recount

In possibly tainted District 3 freeholder race, Democrat wins by 286

By David Wildstein, November 20 2020 1:43 pm

With just 381 votes separating two candidates for Atlantic County Freeholder-at-large, the race is heading to a recount.

Democrat Celeste Fernandez announced today that she will file a court order to make sure that ballots in her bid to unseat Republican incumbent John Risley were accurately tallied.

“At the moment, Freeholder Risley and I are separated by 0.1 percent,” Fernandez said.  “Based on this extremely close margin, I will be filing a recount to ensure that every vote is properly counted.”

Risley currently leads Fernandez, 66,426 to 66,045 after additional votes following ballot cure letters and hand-tallied ballots were tallied.  Risley picked up 33 late cure votes, with 22 going to Fernandez.

Democratic Freeholder Caren Fitzpatrick won re-election.  As the top vote-getter in the four candidate race, Fitzpatrick has 67,602 votes.  Republican James Toto, a Somers Point councilman, is at 64,546.

In the controversial District 3 freeholder race, where County Clerk Ed McGettigan failed to send ballots including this race to 544 registered voters, Democrat Thelma Witherspoon defeated Republican Andrew Parker by 286 votes.

Republicans have said they plan to as a judge to order new election, where Parker, an Egg Harbor Township Committeeman, and Witherspoon found face each other again.

The District 3 incumbent, Democrat Ashley Bennett, did not seek re-election.  Instead, she unsuccessfully sought party support as a candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s 2nd district.

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