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Union City Mayor/State Sen. Brian Stack. (Photo: Brian P. Stack).

May Election wrap up and a few takeaways

In Paterson, 37% of voters wanted a mayor under indictment and awaiting trial on election fraud charges

By David Wildstein, May 11 2022 1:13 pm

No incumbents were defeated and voter turnout was light in New Jersey’s eleven non-partisan municipal election held on Tuesday.

Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis appears headed to a third term and his main opponent, City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski would have win provisional ballots and late-arriving vote by mail ballots by an overwhelming margin to force a runoff.  Provisionals typically mirror machine votes and Davis won those.  But Davis is just 59 votes beyond what he needs to win outright and there are 260 provisional ballots and some VBMs will invariably come in, so Bayonne isn’t a done deal yet.  Loyad Booker, a Davis ally, is also likely to avoid a runoff.

This is a big win for the Hudson County Democratic Organization, including key Davis allies like Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Craig Guy, who is the leading candidate to become the next Hudson County Executive.  Davis also owes Republicans, who make up about 20% of the city and backed him for re-election.

Assuming Davis wins – it certainly looks like he will – he will have complete control of the city council, at least at the start in this alliance-changing city; Ashe-Nadrowski gave up her council seat to run for mayor.  He’ll also be the first three-term mayor since Joe Doria.

But Davis’ re-election was unimpressive.  Some of his electoral woes were related to defections from allies of former Assembly Majority Whip Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Bayonne), who was pushed out of his seat after Davis inexplicably refused to support him.  Chiaravalloti played a major role in Davis’ 2014 win over incumbent Mark Smith.  Davis’s nephew and former chief of staff, Andrew Casais, managed Ashe-Nadrowski’s campaign.

Turnout was light – around 10,000 votes cast.  That represents a 44% decrease from 1998, when Assembly Minority Leader Joseph Doria (D-Bayonne) ousted Mayor Leonard Kiczek.

If Davis runs and wins again in 2026, he’d be on a path to tie the legendary Dennis Collins as Bayonne’s longest-serving mayor.

Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh crushed his four serious opponents to become the first mayor in sixteen years to win a second consecutive term.  He leads his nearest competitor, Councilman Alex Mendez, by roughly 3,750 votes, 48%-27%.    It appears that the 48-year-old Sayegh, who has a reputation as an honest man in a city that has seen three recent mayors become embroiled in scandal, is the most popular mayor since Bill Pascrell.

In the race for three at-large city council seats, incumbents Lilisa Mimms (4,713) and Maritza Davila (3,826) were re-elected.  But there’s a too-close-to-call race for the third seat between Md Forid Uddin (3,266) and Casey Melvin (3,107).

The real news in this election is that 37% of Paterson voters cast their ballots for two candidates currently under indictment for election fraud who ran for mayor while awaiting trial.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka won 83% of the vote, the highest percentage of any mayoral candidate since the city started directly electing mayors in 1954.  If he wants to run for governor in 2025, there’s no arguing that he’ll have support in his hometown.

But turnout was abysmal: there were about 16,000 votes cast on Tuesday, down from roughly 28,600 in 2018, nearly 45,000 in 2014, and over 54,000 in the 2002 “street fight” between Cory Booker and incumbent Sharpe James.   Newark opted not to use early voting in the May election.

The four at-large city council seats were unopposed, as was North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos.  That marginally contributed to the low turnout.

Baraka’s job is not over.  At least two wards – maybe three – will have city council runoffs on June 14.

In the South Ward, Baraka ally and Democratic ward chairman Patrick Council appears to have fallen short of winning outright.  He’s at 45.93%, approximately 161 votes behind the 50% +1 mark.  There are about 268 uncounted provisional ballots and an unknown number of vote-by-mail ballots that can still come in, as long as they were postmarked by 8 PM on Election Day and delivered by next Monday.

The mayor’s base is the South Ward and Council would be his top priority in a runoff.  Terrance Bankston leads Trenton Jones by 89 votes for the runoff berth.  The incumbent, John Sharpe James, the former mayor’s son, did not seek re-election.

Baraka’s West Ward candidate, Dupre “Do It All” Kelly, is headed to a runoff with Chigozie Onyema.  Kelly received 37.9% of the vote in a six candidate race, while Onyema is at 29.8%.  This is a race between two young potential stars and both could wind up as potential legislative candidates in the 28th district, where the youngest incumbent is 76.

The East Ward race marked a dismal failure for Team Baraka; his candidate, Louis Weber, finished last in a field of four candidates.  The June 14 runoff will be a faceoff between Michael Silva (36%) and Anthony Campos (34%).  It’s not clear if the mayor will take sides in that contest.  Silva has the backing of Assembly Budget Committee Chair Eliana Pintor Marin.

Another rising star, Central Ward Councilwoman LaMonica McIver, won a landslide 65%-35% win in a rematch with Shawn McCray.

While six winners and two runoff candidates ran on the Baraka slate, that doesn’t mean the mayor has a majority on the city council.

Union City Mayor Brian Stack never takes his foot off the gas, even when he is running unopposed.  New Jersey’s GOTV King believes that organizations atrophy when they aren’t called into service for every Election Day.  Stack turned out over 2,000 voters during the early voting period last weekend and is at 9,607 votes citywide so far.

Stack’s re-election – he’s been mayor since 2000 – came 40 years to the day that William Vincent Muso was returned to office just one day after his conviction on federal racketeering charges.  A political junkie since he was a teenager, yesterday was the 14th municipal election for the 55-year-old Stack.

Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian won a fourth term on Tuesday, defeating Councilman Keith Hartzell by a solid 54%-46% margin.  Incumbent Karen Bergman (2,267) held her city council seat, and it appears Tony Polcini (1,980), a popular former Boardwalk pizzeria owner, won the second seat.  Incumbent Pete Madden (1,945) leads Ward Councilman Tom Rotondi (1,897) for the third at-large seat.  It’s not clear how many provisional and outstanding vote-by-mail ballots are still out there.

Belleville Mayor Michael Melham scored a resounding re-election victory in his bid for a second term.  He defeated Councilman Steven Rovell by a 62%-38% margin.  Four years ago, Melham defeated three-term incumbent Raymond Kimble, one of the Democratic mayors who endorsed GOP Gov. Chris Christie in 2013.  An independent, Melham endorsed Jack Ciattarelli for governor last year.    Melham’s running mates swept the council races, keeping his faction in the majority on the town council.

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