The polls are now closed in thirteen New Jersey municipalities holding non-partisan local elections today, including Cedar Grove.
The most closely-watched race is in West New York, where Albio Sires, a former nine-term congressman who retired last year, has returned to his hometown to run for mayor, a post he held from 1995 until 2006. He faces a tough challenge from Cosmo Cirillo, a three-term town commissioner who is half Sires’ age.
West New York
Running on the Sires slate are incumbent Commissioner Victor Barrera, West New York school board members Adam Parkinson and Marielka Diaz, and 2022 Republican congressional candidate Marcos Arroyo, who sought Sires’ open seat and lost to Rep. Robert J. Menendez (D-Jersey City).
The other ticket is led by Cirillo who was seven years old when Sires first became mayor. Cirillo’s team includes two current officeholders – incumbent Commissioner Margarita Guzman, Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez., and newcomers Walter Lopez and Hiram Gonzalez.
Gov. Phil Murphy and State Sen. Brian Stack (D-Union City) backed Team Sires.
Potentially adding a wrinkle to the campaign is that in West New York, like in many New Jersey towns, there’s no official election for mayor; the five winning commissioner candidates instead choose a mayor from among themselves.
That raises the possibility of a split decision, where the more popular or well-known members of each slate end up winning seats. It’s conceivable that both Sires and Cirillo end up on the board of commissioners, with the role of mayor going to whichever one managed to win a majority of the other three seats.
Mayor Nicholas Sacco, who has led his Hudson County town since 1991, faces his third consecutive campaign against Larry Wainstein, a local businessman who has been dogged in challenging Sacco both in elections and in court. Sacco beat Wainstein by a margin of 65%-35% in 2015 (in a ten-way race for five seats, that’s how the two ticket leaders did against one another) and 68%-32% in 2019.
Sacco’s team includes two incumbent commissioners, Hugo Cabrera and Allen Pascual, along with school board member Claudia Rodriguez and Hudson County Democratic Chairman and former County Commissioner Anthony Vaineri. Frank Gargiulo is retiring after 38 years as a commissioner (he also served one term in the State Assembly as a Republican when he unseated Vanieri’s father in 1985). Julio Marenco is trading his commissioner slot for a seat in the State Assembly.
Running with Wainstein are Lucy Rodriguez, Tony Parrales, Acides Siri, and Franklin Fabre; both Siri and Fabre were also on Wainstein’s 2019 ticket, and Siri was on the 2015 ticket as well.
Mayor Billy Portman won a dominant off-the-line primary victory just last year, beating a party-endorsed councilman by 22 points. Thanks to a new charter adopted last year that switches the borough to a nonpartisan system, he now has to immediately run for re-election to a full four-year term against Tim Hogan, the president of local hospital Riverview Medical Center.
Riverview itself has become the campaign’s dominant issue, which is no help to Hogan. The hospital is unpopular in town for its efforts to buy land and its avoidance of property taxes, two things that Portman has been happy to hammer Hogan with.
That issue alone probably makes Portman the favorite for re-election; the bigger question is whether he can win a majority on the borough council as well. Portman currently only has one ally on the council, while every other council member is aligned with Councilman Ed Zipprich, who was the Democratic municipal chairman until his ouster last year.
That lone ally, Councilwoman and current Democratic municipal chair Kate Triggiano, is running with Portman, as are Ben Forest, Nancy Facey-Blackwood, Laura Jannone, David Cassidy, and Kristina Bonatakis.
On Hogan’s slate are three incumbent councilmembers – Jacqueline Sturdivant, John Jackson, and Michael Ballard, who was the loser of last year’s mayoral primary – as well as Sean Murphy, Linda Hill, and Erin Fleming. A thirteenth candidate, Suzanne Viscomi, is also running independently of any slate.
Ocean Township is a swingy suburban town with an intriguing bipartisan council.
Back in 2019, then-Mayor Chris Siciliano and three of his running mates – Councilman John Napolitani and newcomers Margie Donlon and David Fisher – were elected to the council together, with the final seat going to Councilman Robert Acerra, a former Siciliano ally who ran on a different slate. The result produced a council with Democratic, Republican, and independent representation.
Four years later, Acerra has rejoined the fold, running for re-election alongside now-Mayor Napolitani, Donlon, Fisher, and Councilwoman Kelly Terry, who was appointed last year to succeed Siciliano, on the Ocean United slate.
Opposing the multipartisan quintet of incumbents are four challengers, each of whom is running independently of one another: Julia Surmonte, Jacqui Wenzel, Gene Talarico, and Mario Delano.
For political observers outside of Ocean Township, however, only one question about the race is truly important: how will Margie Donlon do?
That’s because Donlon is a Democratic candidate for Assembly this year in the 11th legislative district, possibly the single most competitive district in the state. She’s running on a ticket with State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) and former municipal court judge Luanne Peterpaul to take down two Republican incumbents, Assemblywomen Marilyn Piperno (R-Colts Neck) and Kim Eulner (R-Shrewsbury), who unexpectedly won in 2021.
If Donlon, who was the top vote-getter in 2019, turns in another strong performance, that’s a good sign for her and the Monmouth Democratic team. If, on the other hand, she does poorly or even loses her seat, the Republican attack lines write themselves: how can Margie Donlon represent us in Trenton when her own constituents voted her out?
What’s more, Ocean Township is something of a bellwether for the 11th district as a whole. In 2021, Gopal won the town and the district, while Phil Murphy narrowly lost both; as goes Ocean, so (usually) goes LD11.
The Atlantic County city of Margate only has a population of around 5,000, but with two seats on the three-member city commission open this year, it’s hosting a competitive and expensive campaign.
One incumbent commissioner, Maury Blumberg, is running for re-election alongside school board president Cathy Horn and businessman Michael Collins. Blumberg’s two running mates in 2019, Mayor Michael Becker and Commissioner John Amodeo, are both stepping down.
Challenging them is the “Margate Deserves Better” slate, consisting of Calvin Tesler – who lost to the incumbent slate in 2019 – Aaron Singer, and Tish Calvarese.
After four years as one of Essex County progressives’ favorite politicians, Verona Deputy Mayor Christine McGrath faces her first re-election test this year. In the 2019 municipal election, McGrath dramatically outpolled the rest of the field, coming in first place in a five-way race and ousting an incumbent councilman.
Also running for re-election is Mayor Alex Roman, who won re-election by all of two votes in 2019. Roman and McGrath are running for re-election independent of one another.
Opposing them both is the deeply flawed Christian Strumolo, the son of former Bloomfield Democratic municipal chair Peter Strumolo and a candidate for local office in 2005 (in Verona) and 2007 (in Bloomfield. Strumolo has self-funded enough that he has the money to run a serious campaign, but he also has a history of arrests and bankruptcy hanging over his head.
A nine-way race for four seats sounds like it would be a chaotic and competitive election, but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening this year in Passaic.
The clear favorites in the race are three incumbents – Thania Melo, Chaim Munk, and Gary Schaer, who is also an assemblyman – as well as one former councilwoman, Maritza Colon-Montanez. All four are running together with the support of Mayor Hector Lora.
Opposing them is the “Team for Change,” slate led by Diomedes Minaya, a perennial candidate on his eleventh bid for local office; the slate also includes Marko Kopic, Lisa Abreu Wozniak, and Deyanira Pena-Placencia. A ninth candidate, Jeffrey Dye, is also running separately from the two main slates.
Finally, there are a number of towns where exactly as many candidates filed as there are offices up for election, making Tuesday’s results a bit of a snooze.
In South Orange, Village President Sheena Collum is running uncontested, as are Village Trustee Summer Jones and two newcomers, Jennifer Greenberg and Olivia Lewis-Chang. Along with three incumbents whose seats aren’t up this year, they will remain the only village president and trustees in the entire state of New Jersey; the state’s three other villages all use a different form of government.
Also in Essex County, Cedar Grove will host an uncontested race for three council seats. Mayor Joseph Maceri and Councilman John Zazzali are running for re-election, while former school board member Michele Mega will take Councilman Peter Tanella’s seat.
Up in Lodi, five candidates filed for five seats: Mayor Scott Luna, Councilman Vincent Martin, Councilman Emil Carafa, Councilman Joseph Leto, and Bruce Masopust, a former mayor who is set to succeed retiring Councilman Albert DiChiara.
A number of South Jersey towns are also holding elections with predetermined outcomes. For Haddon Township, that’s not unusual; Mayor Randy Teague and Councilmen James Mulroy and Ryan Linhart are running in the town’s fourth consecutive uncontested election.
In Sea Isle City, one of the state’s last remaining dual officeholders will retain that storied distinction. Leonard Desiderio has been mayor for 30 years and a Cape May County Commissioner for 20; he won re-election as county commissioner unopposed in 2021, and is set to do the same next week as mayor. Also uncontested are Councilmen William Kehner and Frank Edwardi.
And in Avalon, Mayor Martin Pagliughi is retiring after 32 years, but that still doesn’t mean there’s any competition to replace him. Councilman John McCorristin is set to become the town’s next mayor, while Councilmembers Barbara Juzaitis and Samuel Wierman are running for re-election unopposed.