A day after voting ended, two Philadelphia primary races remained close enough that they could be decided by a small number of ballots still to be counted, election officials said Wednesday.
In the Democratic race for the Second District Council seat, State Rep. Kenyatta Johnson was leading Barbara Capozzi by a mere 72 votes. In the GOP mayoral primary, Karen Brown's margin over rival John Featherman was an even slimmer 53 votes.
These are unofficial tallies that do not include absentee, provisional, and alternative ballots yet to be counted - votes that could determine the winner in each of those races in the next week or so.
Other close races seemed less likely to be affected by uncounted votes.
City election officials dismissed as extremely unlikely the possibility that City Commissioner Marge Tartaglione could overcome the 991-vote gap between her and Anthony Clark, who apparently captured the second of two Democratic nominations for commissioner.
The top vote-getter for commissioner was Stephanie Singer, a mathematician and Center City ward leader.
In the battle for the fifth and final GOP at-large Council nomination, Malcolm Lazin all but conceded Wednesday to Michael Untermeyer, who held a lead of about 225 votes.
"Right now, I'm assuming he won," Lazin said.
About 4 percent of the vote remained to be counted, and Lazin said he would decide whether to contest the final tally depending on how close it was.
"In relatively short order, I think we put together a very credible campaign and raised issues that others weren't raising," he said. "In both parties, I think I provided the most in-depth knowledge and discussion of the city's dire financial condition."
Untermeyer did not return calls seeking comment.
In the Second District, there were at least 164 votes, mostly absentee ballots, still to be counted. That was unlikely to happen before the weekend, said Bob Lee, the city's voter-registration administrator.
Capozzi, a real estate agent and developer, would need to win a big portion of those ballots to overcome Johnson's lead. That could happen if the bulk came from one of her South Philadelphia bases of support.
Capozzi said Wednesday night she was hiring two lawyers and would issue a news release soon, adding that she could not comment further.
Still to be counted are the absentee ballots sent by voters who knew they would not be able to get to the polls; alternative ballots submitted by those unable to get to polls because of physical limitations; and provisional ballots submitted by people who arrived at their polling places but found they were not listed as eligible voters.
Johnson said his opponent deserved "credit for running a tough race," but predicted he would prevail.
"We knew this would be a close race, and we're pleased that after all the divisions in the district reported, we're winning," Johnson said. "We anticipate that when it's all said and done, we'll still be in the lead."
Johnson's margin could have been larger had candidate Damon K. Roberts managed to get off the ballot. Roberts announced this month that he was dropping out of the race and supporting Johnson, but he didn't meet the deadline for removing his name from voting machines.
Johnson's campaign filed to get a court order to have Roberts' name covered with tape, but a judge denied the request. Roberts received 319 votes.
The Second District Democratic winner would face Republican Ivan Cohen in November as the overwhelming favorite.
The situation was less clear in the GOP mayoral primary, where the number of votes still to be counted wasn't known.
City commissioners reported 1,459 absentee ballots across the city, but they didn't know how many were from Republican voters. The number of provisional and alternative ballots also wasn't known.
Featherman said he might challenge the election results if Brown is declared the winner. Brown could not be reached for comment.
"I feel that I earned every vote, but I don't feel that they earned every vote," Featherman said.
City election officials are keeping the uncounted ballots under 24-hour police guard at Delaware Avenue and Spring Garden Street, where they house their record-keeping operations.
The official count of the primary vote will begin Friday morning.
Estimates of how long that process would take have varied. Four years ago, when Councilman Jack Kelly and challenger David Oh were separated by seven votes on election night, two weeks passed before the winner was decided.
Conventional wisdom says either GOP mayoral candidate would be a sacrificial lamb before Mayor Nutter in the general election, but Featherman didn't sound deterred.
"I'm having so much fun because I've exceeded the expectations of everybody," he said, "and because I'm going to be able to lead the Republican Party to a new beginning."