Home>Campaigns>Democrats are playing to take North Caldwell for the first time in over 100 years

The home on Aspen Drive in North Caldwell that was used as the exterior of Tony Soprano's home in the HBO series. (Photo: Wikipedia).

Democrats are playing to take North Caldwell for the first time in over 100 years

Former Republicans make up two-thirds of the Democratic ticket, with Josh Gottheimer’s cousin as the third candidate

By David Wildstein, September 23 2022 11:03 am

North Caldwell is a small suburban town of 6,694 people in northern West Essex where Tony Soprano lived.  It’s where Rep. Josh Gottheimer grew up, and where Thomas Mosser, sitting in his kitchen in 1994, was killed when he received a mail bomb from the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski.

It’s also a been under Republican control for more than 100 year – red enough to withstand the Democratic waves that accompanied Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 landslide and the 1973-74 Watergate scandal that caused other GOP strongholds to elect Democrats on the local level.

But demographics have changed – farms and the old Essex County jail have been replaced by mini mansions – and North Caldwell today is politically competitive

The general election this November could result in a Democratic mayor and council majority, but if they win it will be on the backs of two former Republicans who have switched parties.

In his bid for a fourth term, Mayor Joseph Alessi faces Democrat Joshua Raymond, who served two terms on the borough council as a Republican.

So far, Raymond, a partner at the politically influential McManimon Scotland law firm, is still talking like a Republican.  In a recent candidate forum, he was critical of Democrat Joseph DiVincenzo, the popular five-term Essex County Executive who is up for re-election this year.

“Joe DiVincenzo loves putting his picture on development projects all over the county,” said Raymond.  “We need to get out county taxpayer dollars coming back into the borough.”

DiVincenzo makes an odd target for Raymond.  He carried North Caldwell by seven percentage points in 2018 against John Chiaia, a North Caldwell councilman who had Raymond’s endorsement.

Republicans began the year with a 4-2 majority on the council, but that number shifted to 3-3 in March when Republican Councilman Arthur Rees switched parties.  Rees is seeking re-election as a Democrat on a ticket with Gottheimer’s cousin, Steve Weinstein.

Weinstein might share some DNA with Gottheimer, but not all of it.  His last campaign finance report filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission in June shows the Democratic slate with $23,750 raised and $10,983 cash-on-hand.  That makes the North Caldwell wing of the family a sort of Dollar Store Gottheimer.

Rees’ former running mate, Councilman Kenneth Tilton, is running with  Lara Schlachter, a music and teacher who grew up in Richard Nixon’s hometown, Yorba Linda, California.

Joe Biden carried North Caldwell by 236 votes in 2020, with U.S. Senator Cory Booker winning by 89 and Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) by 178.   In 2016, Donald Trump had a 122-vote plurality and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Harding) won by 829.  Mitt Romney outpolled Barack Obama by 790 votes in 2012.  Sherrill won North Caldwell by 11 points in 2018 when she flipped Frelinghuysen’s seat.

In 2020, Democrats scored their first local victories in more than a century, with Anthony Floria-Callori (2,260) and Matthew Atlas (2,241) ousting two Republican incumbents, Chiaia (2,165) and Cynthia Santomauro (2,157).   Raymond backed the two Democratic candidates.

Republicans swept North Caldwell in 2021, with Jack Ciattarelli winning by 165 votes against Gov. Phil Murphy – a little better than Kim Guadagno’s 121-vote margin against Murphy in 2017.   Republicans had carried North Caldwell by 597 votes in the 2009 governor’s race.

But last year, Democrats chose not to compete, allowing Republican Councilmen Robert Kessler and Francis Astorino to run unopposed.

Alessi , a former assistant Essex County Prosecutor, won 71% of the vote against independent Richard Verde in 2018.  He was unopposed in 2010, when he succeeded Mayor Mel Levine, and again in 2014.

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