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11 local races worth watching today

By David Wildstein, June 07 2022 6:00 am

There are plenty of  primaries for municipal office up and down the state in today’s election, but here are 11 worth watching:

Toms River: There are contested races for 110 Republican county committee seats out of a total of 114 as George Gilmore seeks to return to the Ocean County GOP post he held from 1996 to 2019.   Gilmore resigned after his conviction on federal tax-related charges, and after a pardon from Donald Trump – and despite owing nearly $5 million in tax liens and judgments – he wants his old job back.   Gilmore faces Sheriff Michael Mastronardy and needs to sweep Toms River – once Gilmore Country – to have a shot at winning.

Howell: In one of the most bizarre Republican primaries in the state, organization candidates Fred Gasior, Susan Fisher and Ian Nadel face off-the-line challenger Michael Bernstein in a race where a Superior Court Judge allowed the three party-backed candidate to merge their petitions into one after they were circulated in order to qualify for the ballot.  Even more astonishing is that an Appellate Court Judge, Hany A. Mawla, who had initially stayed the lower court judge’s decision, decided in April to order briefing to begin on the ballot challenge to begin on June 10 – three days after the primary.  That opens the door to a do-over of the primary, unless the judge has already made up his mind.

Palisades Park: Local Democrats pulled party support for Mayor Chris Chung, who became the  borough’s first Korean American mayor in 2018.  Now Chung is mounting an off-the-line re-election bid against the organization candidate, Councilman Paul Kim.

Dover: The decision to deny the organization line to Alderman Edward Correa, the Democratic municipal chairman, contributed to the decision by some party leaders to seek the resignation of Morris County Democratic Chairman Chip Robinson in April.  Correa faces Karol Ruiz, an assistant state public defender, in the Ward 3 primary.  In Ward 4, incumbent Carlos Valencia, a Correa ally, is running off-the-line against former Councilman Marcos Tapia-Aguilar, Sr.  There are two other ward alderman races.

Ocean Gate: Councilwoman Laura Padham Iaria and Bob Curtin face off in the Republican primary for mayor in a small Ocean County town where their longtime mayor, Paul Kennedy, resigned after being charged with theft.  The Ocean County Prosecutor alleges that Kennedy sold municipal property online and pocketed the money, and that he took change out of parking meters and kept it.   Iaria is a former Kennedy ally, although she is not connected to the scandal, while Curtin, the vice commodore of the local yacht club, is the outsider.

Rutherford: Councilman Thomas Mullahey and Matthew Ackermann, a former New Jersey Law Journal reporter, are running on the Democratic organization line for  two borough council seats.  They face two primary challengers, both attorneys: Christie Del Rey-Cone and Susan Quatrone, a former aide to Rep. Bill Pascrell. Council President Mark Goldsack is not seeking re-election.

Flemington: Former State Sen. Marcia Karrow is seeking a political comeback as a candidate for the Republican nomination for mayor.  Karrow served as mayor of Raritan, a Hunterdon County freeholder, and as an assemblywoman before winning a special election convention for State Senate in January 2010 but lost the GOP primary to Michael Doherty five months later.  She faces off-the-line challenger Robert Shore, the former chairman of the Flemington Business Improvement District   The winner will face Democratic incumbent Betsy Driver, who became the first openly intersex mayor in the nation when she won in 2018.

Monroe (Gloucester) : Mayor Richard DiLucia, who switched parties in March, faces Sam Miles, a businessman and high school tennis coach, in the Republican primary.  DiLucia heads a ticket of three at-large council candidates that includes another party-switcher, incumbent Katherine Falcone.  Miles also has a full slate of council candidates.   The winner will face Democrat Gregory Wolfe, a councilman, in the general election.

South Amboy: Mayor Fred Henry faces a challenge in the Democratic primary for mayor against Brian McLaughlin, a councilman and middle-aged frat house candidate mounting an off-the-line campaign.  Councilman Mickey Gross is running with Anthony Conrad for two at-large council seats on Henry’s line.  Another incumbent, Christine Noble, is seeking re-election on McLaughlin’s slate with Mary Szaro.   Republican mayoral candidate Geraldine Bruno is unopposed.

Maplewood: Democrats are trying an experiment – an open primary – putting two candidates for one township committee seat on the organization line: Kurt Kiley, a county committeeman and former Seniors Advisory Committee chairman, and Deborah Engel, the co-founder of the General Store Cooperative.  The incumbent, Democrat Frank McGehee, is not seeking re-election.  No Republican filed to run for the seat.

Piscataway: A slate of off-the-line Democratic township council candidates, including Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey president Staci Berger, are challenging the organization incumbents backed by State Sen. Bob Smith (D-Piscataway).

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