HACKENSACK — Democratic challenger Josh Gottheimer is the winner of the hotly contested 5th Congressional District race, with 98 percent mail-in ballots were counted.

Republican incumbent Scott Garrett refused to concede the election to Gottheimer early on Wednesday morning, despite unofficial tallies showing Gottheimer ahead, citing 20,000 mail-in ballots he said had not been counted. The incumbent hoped that could close a 10,000-vote gap.

Eileen Debari, chairwoman of the Bergen County Board of Elections, told New Jersey 101.5 that 98 percent of those ballots have been counted, with unofficial results giving 7,344 of those mail-ins Garrett and 11.741 to Gotthemier. She said there are an additional 1,000 federal ballots that also need to be counted. Debari said the votes were part of the vote count that continued until 1 a.m. and both campaigns are aware of the mail-in result.

Neither the Gottheimer nor the Garrett campaigns have uet returned messages seeking comment early Wednesday.

Gottheimer, a former Microsoft executive and Democratic speechwriter, claimed victory in the district that covers parts of Bergen, Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties and is overwhelmingly Republican.

“They said this couldn’t happen, that our district was just too partisan, too entrenched, that the ads would be too expensive, and the odds would be too long,” Gottheimer exclaimed at a victory party.  “All of you proved them wrong.”

Dino Flammia contributed to this report

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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