ATL.HIGHLANDS - As they began to gather at the GOP headquarters on First Avenue an hour before the close of polls, Ellen O’Dwyer was seated in the office, on the phone and reminding last minute voters they still had an hour to cast their ballots.
As more crowds grew for what they hoped would be a victory celebration, O’Dwyer hung up the phone, breathed a sigh, and began circulating in the growing crowd, thanking one, responding to questions from another, nodding in understanding at an incident another said happened that day.
Councilman Jim Murphy came in with his family, quiet, confident but with caution, and stood with his wife and children gathered around, watching carefully as volunteers came from the Charles Hesse Center and GOP Chairman Brian Boms began writing the figures on the blackboard at the front of the room. Murphy talked with his wife, her busy writing her facts, both answering all the questions of their children, explaining as they must have many times in the past, some of the intricacies of an election.
“I feel good,” O’Dwyer said about half an hour after polls closed and no one in the room knew any figures. “I feel confident. I’ve had a couple of Big D’s tell me they might not show it, but in the ballot box, it was my name they were going to press.’ They gave me support, too, she said, again with a quiet smile and feeling of confidence.
Looking back at her second time running for borough council in this borough, O’Dwyer said she also felt confident about how she and Murphy ran the campaign. Could she have done anything different? “I would have delegated more!” she laughed after a moment’s thought. “I would have left some things for others who support us to do.”
On the positive side, O’Dwyer said she and Murphy had to learn to work together, which they did easily and quickly enough, they had to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, how to blend them in the best way, had to agree on a strategy for success. “We did it, we enjoyed it, and we agreed on how we had to go about winning the election!” she said, smiling.
“I know you can’t please everybody, and I realize that, I put my mind to simply being myself, doing what I thought was right, believing in the things I know I can do. That’s what I told everybody when I visited. At least then, she smiled, “if they vote for me, it’s because they like me and like what I am determined about.”
O’Dwyer said she is not in favor of major changes in the town, “I just want to have it continue to be Atlantic Highlands, a neighborhood, a community, a place where we can all still say Hi and do something for our neighbor. I don’t want our town to be a major destination point if it means giving up our community. I want Atlantic Highlands to just stay the lovely place it is.”
A couple of hours later, with the returns still not showing a positive and sure victory, and as the crowd began to dwindle, both Murphy and O’Dwyer thanked their supporters, agreed they had done their best; Murphy gathered his family around him, patient, quiet, assured but questioning, and still answering and teaching his children as both candidates said their goodbyes to the departing voters. Two hours after the polls closed, it looked like Murphy was a clear winner once again, O’Dwyer was in doubt, vying with Democrat Brian Dougherty for the second seat.
Sometime later, in the early hours of the morning, Monmouth County announced it had received and counted all the provisional votes, all the mail-ins up until that time, and the tally from the early voting. While there would still be more mail in votes to be counted later this week, and the results will not be certified until after all ballots are counted, there apparently, figures in the local election seem positive enough to award victories before certification.
Incumbent Councilman James Murphy won his way to a second term with 965 votes, former Army officer, mother and professional candidate Ellen O’Dwyer polled 910 to secure the second seat. Dougherty, a member of the planning board seeking his first elective office, polled 887, and his running mate Lesley D’Almeida, polled 840 votes. Independent candidates Morgan Spicer and Zac Brown, the husband wife team who wanted to present an alternative to both parties at the council table, polled 145 and 134, respectively.
Both candidates for the board of education easily won reelection, with the absence of any competition. Karen Masina polled 935 and Allison Jacobs, 911. No one filed for election to the third seat on the board. That position will be filled by whomever polled the highest number of write-in votes.