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Guide to Essex County Elections

Races for Register, Freeholder; Key local contests in Livingston, Roseland, Caldwell, Millburn, North Caldwell, Belleville & Glen Ridge

By David Wildstein, November 02 2019 2:42 pm

Essex County has races for Register of Deeds and Mortgages and a special election for Essex County Freeholder.

Democrat Juan Rivera, a former freeholder, faces 31-year-old Kristina Christoforou for the seat of Register Dana Rone, who is not seeking re-election to a second five-year term.

Romaine Graham, a Democrat and former Irvington school board member, was appointed to an at-large seat on the Board of Freeholders earlier this year following the death of Lebby Jones.  She faces teacher Adam Kraemer, who ran for the District 4 seat in 2017, in a contest to fill the remaining fourteen months of Jones’ term.

Republicans have not won a countywide freeholder race in Essex since Gerardo Del Tufo (R-Newark) gave up his State Senate seat to run in 1971.  Democrats have held the Register post since Republican Hymen B. Mintz, who had been an assemblyman in the 1950s and a freeholder in the 1960s, declined to seek re-election in 1974.

Essex and Hudson are the only two counties that elect a Register of Deeds and Mortgages.  Several other counties have eliminated the position and transferred the duties to the county clerk.

In 1979, Mintz, then 79, mounted a campaign based on a single issue: if he won, he would immediately eliminate the job.  He came within 800 votes of ousting the incumbent, Larrie West Stalks.

Rone has decided to pursue an entrepreneurial quest in the area of recreational and medical marijuana. She was elected register in 2014 following the death of Phil Thigpen and served as a Newark Central Ward councilwoman from 2006 to 2008.


Livingston:  The special election for a seat on the township council pits incumbent Michael Vieira against Brandon Minde, a former aide to Gov. Chris Christie.

Vieira, a longtime community leader and Democratic activist, was appointed earlier this year when Councilman Michael Silverman resigned to move to another town.  Minde ran in 2018 and lost by 2,984 votes.

Christie grew up in Livingston and carried the town in both of his gubernatorial campaigns.  Minde, who now works for Christie’s old law firm, refers to his service in the governor’s office but doesn’t mention Christie by name in any of his campaign materials.

Minde was one of the guys who sat in chairs along the wall, not at the table with the major players.  He also ran the New Jersey Government Records Council, which settled transparency issues – often to the benefit of the government.

Vieira has raised $32,517, according to reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.  Minde filed a notice that he won’t raise or spend more than $5,100.

Democrats have a 5-0 majority in Livingston, where Republicans haven’t won since 2010.   Democrats have held the majority on the council for all but two years since the 1974 election.

Viera is the strong favorite to win the first special election in Livingston history.   Gov. Phil Murphy will be in Livingston tomorrow morning in support of Vieira and other Democratic candidates.

The winner of the one-year unexpired term will need to run again in 2020.

Roseland: Two Republican seats are up on the 3-3 borough council.

Republican Jean Perrotti, a former school board member, was appointed to the council earlier this year when Richard Leonard, who has served in local government on and off since 1973, resigned after pleading guilty to criminal charges.  She’s running with Aristotle Popolizio for the seat of retiring GOP Councilman David Jacobs.

Democrats are running George Meleas and Moose Trillo.

In 2018, Democrat James Spango won the mayoral race by 171 votes, 39%-33%, against former Mayor Michael Pacio.  An independent with ties to a faction of the local Republicans received 795 votes as the spoiler.

Democrats picked up two open Council seats last year, shifting what was a 5-1 majority to the current split.

Caldwell: Republican Councilman Pasquale Capozzoli is seeking re-election as the GOP seeks to defend their 3-2 majority on the Borough Council.  Sue Ann Penna is seeking the seat of retiring Councilman Thomas O’Donnell.

The Democratic candidates are Jeffrey Gates and Frances DePalma-Iozzi.

Caldwell has become a bellwether town in Essex and local elections have been extraordinarily close for the last several years.  Voters in Caldwell know how to split their tickets.

Democrat John Kelley ousted two-term Mayor Ann Dassing last year by just 103 votes last year, and Democrats added a council seat when Christine Schmidt defeated incumbent Richard Hauser by 184 votes.

Millburn: Democrats are seeking to hold the 5-0 majority they took last year when Tara Prupis unseated the lone Republican Township Committeewoman, Jodi Rosenberg by 425 votes.

Incumbent Dianne Eglow is seeking re-election on the Democratic line with Richard Wasserman, who hopes to replace retiring Committeeman Samuel Levy.  Republicans are running Agnes Sym and Sharon Strickland.

Once a Republicans stronghold, Millburn has become solidly Democratic.  Hillary Clinton won with 71% in 2016 and Malinowski with 69% in 2018 against five-term incumbent Leonard Lance.

The Democratic margin in 2018 was wide than it initially appeared to be.  Early counts on election night put Prupis up by less than 100, but more than 20% of the town voted by mail – partly due to a VBM program by congressional candidate Tom Malinowski, and Prupis won mail-in ballots by 325 and provisionals by 27.

North Caldwell: Republicans have a 5-0 majority on the Borough Council, where incumbent Arthur Rees is seeking re-election.  He’s joined on the GOP ticket by Kenneth Tilton, who is seeking the seat of retiring Councilman Joshua Raymond.  Democrats have no candidates, but Anthony Floria-Callori and Ted Roth are running as independents on the North Caldwell Now ticket.

Belleville: Mayor Michael Melham, the master of vote-by-mail, is backing a slate of candidates for the Board of Education.  Melham beat an entrenched incumbent in the 2018 May municipal elections and brought in two councilmembers with him.

Glen Ridge: There is a rare contest for borough council in a town that for the last 106 years has held partisan elections without either party nominating candidates.

The Civic Conference Committee (CCC), a group made up of most of the borough’s community organizations, meet to endorse an independent slate.  They usually win, although from time to time a candidate not endorsed by the CCC has prevailed.

This year, the CCC is backing Mayor Stuart Patrick and Councilman Peter Hughes for re-election, along with Richard Law.   They face three-term Councilman David Lefkowits, who is running as an independent after failing to win the CCC endorsement this year.

Democrats in Bloomfield, East Orange, Maplewood and Republicans in Fairfield, Essex Fells and West Caldwell are unopposed.

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