Home>Articles>Essex GOP runs all-woman countywide ticket

Five Republican State Senators from Essex County in 1968, left to right: Michael Giuliano (R-Bloomfield), Gerardo Del Tufo (R-Newark), James Wallwork (R-Short Hills), Milton Waldor (R-South Orange) and Alexander Matturri (R-Newark). Ace Alagna collection courtesy of the Monsignor William Noé Field Archives & Special Collections Center, Seton Hall University Libraries, South Orange.

Essex GOP runs all-woman countywide ticket

Republicans haven’t won county clerk post since 1955, at-large freeholder since 1971

By David Wildstein, March 31 2020 2:39 am

Essex County Republicans have fielded an all-woman ticket of countywide candidates, something neither party has done before.

The GOP slate includes one African American woman and one Latina.

Monique Headen, Gynise Gotto, Bernara Quezada and Alexandra Campisi will run for freeholder-at-large against incumbents Patricia Sebold, Brendan Gill, Rufus Johnson and Romaine Graham.

Kristina Christoforou, who ran for Register of Deeds and Mortgages in 2019, will take on county clerk Christopher Durkin.

Republicans have not won the county clerk post since Anthony Giuliano beat Harry Lerner in 1955.

In 1960, Giuliano and county register Abbie Magee, both Republicans, tried to switch jobs and both lost.  Democrat Nicholas V. Caputo, the “man with the golden arm,” was elected county clerk and stayed in office for 30 years; Madaline Williams was elected  register, the first African American woman to win a constitutional row office in New Jersey history.

The last Republican to win a freeholder-at-large seat in Essex was Gerardo Del Tufo (R-Newark), who gave up his State Senate seat in 1971 to run for the countywide post.  Del Tufo lost re-election in the 1974 Watergate landslide.

Republicans have won four times since then in elections where they forged a coalition with a significant wing of the county Democratic organization: Nicholas Amato for county executive against incumbent Peter Shapiro in 1986; Earl Harris for surrogate the same year; and James Treffinger for county executive in 1994 and 1998.

The last GOP win was a 2003 special election for District 4 freeholder, when Muriel Shore won with 51% of the vote.  She lost her seat in 2005 to Linda Lordi Cavanaugh.

Sebold, the longest -serving freeholder in Essex County history, will seek re-election to an 11th term.  She won a special election convention in 1993 and has won nine countywide elections, including a 1993 primary win against Sheila Oliver.

Gill, the Montclair Democratic municipal chairman and a top political advisor to Gov. Phil Murphy, won a district 5 freeholder race in 2011 and at-large races in 2014 and 2017.

Johnson, a former aide to State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark), is seeking his 5th term.

Graham became a freeholder in 2019 following the death of Lebby C. Jones and won a special election last fall.

They face a primary challenge from progressives Sabre Burroughs, Anthony Diaz and Simone Jelks-Bandison.

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