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Fitzsimons, Troiano, Mikulski Hold Comfortable Lead in Wildwood Election

Shay Roddy/File Photos
From left to right: Steve Mikulski, Krista Fitzsimons and Ernie Troiano Jr.

By Shay Roddy

WILDWOOD – With the vast majority of votes counted as of Tuesday night, Nov. 7, Acting Mayor Krista Fitzsimons was the lead vote-getter in a race for three seats on the Wildwood Board of Commissioners. Fitzsimons’ running mates, Phil Swetsky and R. Todd Kieninger, fell short to the city’s well-known former Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. and incumbent Commissioner Steve Mikulski.

According to the unofficial results published by the county, Fitzsimons took over 16% of the 2,914 votes counted, giving her the clear plurality in a crowded field of 14 candidates. Troiano is in second place, with over 14% of the vote, and Mikulski is poised to take the third seat on the board, with 13% of the vote.

Swetsky and Kieninger, found themselves short election night, receiving 10.7 % and 10.3% of the votes respectively, ranking fourth and fifth in the results, missing the cut to serve on the three-person governing body. Swetsky chairs the city’s planning board and Kieninger used to serve on the school board.

Troiano and Mikulski ran a campaign together, but did not attach themselves to a third candidate.

In a statement issued to the Herald, Fitzsimons thanked her running mates for their “unwavering commitment” to the campaign and the city.

“I am grateful to the voters of Wildwood and will continue to bring my passion for Wildwood and my work ethic to the Board of Commissioners over the next four years,” Fitzsimons added. She did not accept an invitation for an interview.

According to multiple sources familiar with the situation, Fitzsimons had not yet spoken with Troiano or Mikulski as of Wednesday morning, Nov. 8.

The “unofficial” status of the election results is because mail-in and provisional ballots postmarked through Election Day, but not received prior to the time polls close, are yet to be counted. An official tally, including those returns, will be published Nov. 22, according to a statement issued by the county clerk.

The margin between Mikulski and Swetsky stands at 67 votes, with Mikulski holding a 2.3% lead over Swetsky for the final seat. It would seem unlikely Swetsky or any other candidate will be able to overcome the deficit, even considering the outstanding ballots.

Neither Swetsky nor Kieninger responded to multiple requests for comment from the Herald. They also did not reply prior to publication to a question emailed Wednesday morning, Nov. 8, asking if they planned to concede in the race or wait for the official tabulation, which will not be finalized for two more weeks.

In 2019, the most recent election for Wildwood commissioners, there were 307 mail-in ballots and 16 provisional ballots counted. So far, this year 549 mail-in ballots have been counted and no provisional ballots. In 2019, 3,528 votes were cast in the race for a seat on the Wildwood Board of Commissioners; 2,914 ballots have been counted so far in the 2023 election.

Under Wildwood’s form of government, once elected, the three commissioners vote amongst themselves on who will be mayor. Once sworn in, the mayor’s vote is still equal to that of the two other commissioners and the mayor’s power and responsibilities are not any different from that of the other two commissioners, aside from the inherent public attention that comes with the title.

Although candidates often run campaigns together, Wildwood’s governing body has three seats, which all come up for election at the same time and go to the top three overall vote-getters. Candidates receive votes individually, so just because they campaign as a team doesn’t mean they are elected as a team.

Pete Byron, who resigned as mayor in September after pleading guilty to tax fraud in Camden federal court, finished last. He ran independently and received 45 votes or 1.5%.

Byron did not respond to interview requests from the Herald on Election Day.

Mikulski and Troiano are currently under indictment, along with Byron. The state accused the three of illegally accepting state health benefits while they served as Wildwood elected officials, even though they were allegedly not entitled to participate in the program. All three have pleaded not guilty.

Contact the author, Shay Roddy, at sroddy@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 142.

Reporter

Shay Roddy is a Delaware County, Pennsylvania native who has always spent as much of his summers as he could at the Jersey Shore. He went to Friends’ Central and is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

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