Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz and Councilman Helmin Caba are headed to a December 15 runoff election, the New Jersey Globe is projecting.
Diaz is in first place with 4,648 votes (33.14%), 424 votes in front of Caba, the city’s Democratic municipal chairman. Caba is at 4,224 (30.12%). Attorney Joseph B. Vas has received 3,441 votes (24.53%).
With about 800 provisional ballots and approximately 130 outstanding cure letters still outstanding, there is no real path for Vas to make the runoff.
But contests for the City Council remains too close to call, with at least one of Vas’ running mates in contention to make the runoff election.
The top vote-getters are Junior Iglesia (4,285), who ran with Diaz, and Caba running mate Rose B. Morales (4,171). They are followed by Diaz-backed Bernadette Falcon-Lopez (4,108) and Bienvenido “BJ” Torres (3,876) from the Caba slate.
Vanessa Bermudez, who ran on Vas’ ticket, is in fifth place with 3,712 votes, just 164 votes behind Torres. The other Vas candidate, Angel Mota Ramirez, is trialing with 3,330 votes.
Two other council candidates who ran with mayoral candidate Joel Pabon, Sr., Terotha Frederick (1,025) and Doris Fonseca (975), are running far behind.
Two other incumbent city councilmen were also in the race to stop Diaz from winning a fourth term: Pabon (916 votes, 6.53%) and Fernando Irizarry (777 votes, 5.54%.)
The runoff, which voters approved in 2019, requires a candidate in the non-partisan municipal election to receive 50% of the vote to win. So far, that number is 7,013.
The day before the municipal election, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order that moved the Perth Amboy runoff from December 8 to December 15 to give election officials a chance to process ballots.
The runoff will be conducted primarily through vote-by-mail ballots, with a limited number of in-person polling places open on Election Day. All voters will have the option of voting through VBM ballots or on paper ballots on December 15.
Murphy’s order gives officials extra time to design and mail ballots to 25,097 eligible, active voters in Perth Amboy.
Results of the November 3 general election are not expected to be certified until November 20.
That will be followed by a ballot drawing, and then the printing and mailing of runoff ballots.
That assumes the runoff, if necessary, will produce two clear candidates and not face court challenges that may not commence until after the certification.
Candidates may seek a recount only after Middlesex County certifies the results.
It’s not clear if a judge, in approving the recount, will halt the printing of ballots.
If there is no recount, candidates have until December 5 to file a legal challenge to the vote.
Middlesex election officials have the option of redeploying more than 30 secure ballot drop boxes to locations in Perth Amboy to obviate the need for involvement by the U.S. Postal Service in returning ballots.
In an added twist, the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission told the New Jersey Globe that candidates may not accept campaign contributions from existing donors who have already contributed the maximum amount until after they are certified for a runoff slot.