A Democratic candidate for township committee in Mendham Township has a one-vote lead over an incumbent Republican committeeman, meaning that Democrats may soon be one seat away from a majority in the once-solidly Republican hometown of former Gov. Chris Christie.
According to unofficial results from Morris County, Democrat Lauren Spirig has 1,471 votes to Republican Committeeman Thomas Baio’s 1,470. Republican Tracey Moreen is in first place with 1,530 votes, while Spirig’s running mate Martin Slayne is in last at 1,395.
The Democrat had led by two votes earlier in the day, but one overseas ballot opened this afternoon went to the Republicans.
If Spirig’s lead survives any court challenges that may come, she’ll bring the Republican majority in the township from 4-1 to 3-2. Committeewoman Amalia Duarte has been the lone Democrat on the committee since she was first elected in 2017; earlier this year, she was elected unopposed as the new chairwoman of the Morris County Democratic Party.
Only Duarte’s seat is up next year, so Democrats wouldn’t have an opportunity to take control in the township until 2024.
Next door to Mendham, Democrats flipped a Morris Township Committee seat in a race where both candidates had a long history in local politics.
The Democrat, former Committeeman Jeff Grayzel, first ran for the township committee in 2003 and has run in practically every cycle since then, losing in some years and winning in others. In 2019, he became the township’s first-ever Democratic mayor; he didn’t seek re-election in 2021, instead running unsuccessfully for the State Senate against State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton).
Mancuso, meanwhile, got his start in Morris Township politics in 1978, winning a seat on the township committee that he held for nine years. After a long series of bids for other offices, including State Senate and state Republican Party chairman, he returned to the township committee in 2010.
Mancuso’s most recent re-election bid, in 2019, was marred by what became known as Gluegate, where cheap glue caused some provisional ballots to become unsealed. After the faulty ballots were counted, Mancuso defeated Democrat Bud Ravitz by just eight votes.
Grayzel avenged that loss this year with a 53%-47% victory over Mancuso, meaning that Republicans will soon have no seats on the Morris Township Committee at all.
In a separate election for an unexpired term on the committee, appointed Democratic Committeewoman Donna Guariglia won 56%-44% against Republican Sherry Nardolillo, who attended the January 6 protest at the U.S. Capitol.
Guariglia, the president of the Morristown Area League of Women Voters and the daughter of the late Democratic leader Robert Peacock, was chosen in August to replace Committeewoman Tara Olivo-Moore, who moved to Massachusetts just seven months into her first term in office.