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Mimi Letts, a Democrat who served as Mayor of Parsippany from 1994 to 2005, has died. She was 80.
Letts won a 1994 special election caused by the resignation of Republican Frank Priore, who had been convicted on federal bribery and racketeering charges.
Her victory followed several unsuccessful runs for office.
She lost a council race against incumbent Michael dePierro in 1985, and finished third in a race for mayor in 1993.
Federal prosecutors indicted Priore on bribery and extortion charges, alleging that took money from a caterer who had space at the municipal golf fours, took free hotel rooms, and took $5,100 from the employee health fund.
Priore avoided a primary challenge when rival Rosemarie Agostini, the former director of the Parsippany Office on Aging, decided to run as an independent instead.
With Priore’s trial set to begin in the fall, Agostini calculated that she would have a better chance in the general.
Despite the indictment, Priore won with 49% of the vote, with Agostini (26%) running about 3,700 votes behind him. Letts finished third with 25%, less than 200 votes behind Agostini.
The following March, a jury convicted Priore on 20 counts of corruption.
Priore refused to resign, and it took a court order to remove him from office.
In the June primary, Agostini bested Weisberg by 429 votes, 55%-45%. Letts won the Democratic primary by a 66%-27% margin over former Democratic Municipal Chairman Patrick Salmon, with Tim Costello finished a weak third.
Some Republican leaders refused to back Agostini and Letts was elected mayor by a margin of around 200 votes. The GOP held control of the council.
Letts again faced the voters in 1997 when she sought re-election, this time to a full four-year term.
Republicans had a nasty primary between Agostini and dePierro.
The dePierro campaign was largely financed by controversial local real estate developer Edward Mosberg, who in the days before dark money and John Graham’s super PAC, figured out how to funnel money through an assortment of partnerships to skirt the campaign contribution limit.
In the June primary, Agostini beat dePierro by fourteen votes. After a recount, Agostini’s margin went to fifteen.