Home>Local>Essex>Shapiro and Cryan split the ’78 races for Essex freeholder

Clockwise starting from the bottom left – former Newark City Councilman Calvin West; Essex County Freeholders Renee Lane, Daniel Tindell, Pearl Beatty, Angelo Cifelli, and Lincoln Turner; and Harry Wheeler, one of Newark’s top political insiders. The photo was from the day Peter Shapiro was sworn in as the Essex County Executive.

Shapiro and Cryan split the ’78 races for Essex freeholder

One freeholder district race was tight in both primary and general elections

By David Wildstein, July 22 2019 3:41 am

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With four Democrats running for Essex County Executive in the June 1978 primary, there were also contested races for the four Freeholder-At-Large seats and in each of the five freeholder districts – including a race between one of the leaders of the charter change movement and the brother of Gov. Brendan Byrne.

Assemblyman Peter Shapiro (D-South Orange), the narrow winner of the primary, and Sheriff John Cryan split the freeholder seats, each winning four; the other seat went to Pearl Beatty, an ally of Newark Mayor Kenneth Gibson.

That meant that at best, Shapiro would become County Executive without his allies holding a majority of seats on the Board of Freeholders.

Twelve candidates filed for the Democratic nomination for the four at-large seats.

Cryan was joined on the organization line by four at-large candidates: incumbent Freeholder Martin Scaturo; Verona Mayor Jerome Greco; Stephen Lozowick, the deputy director of the state Division of Motor Vehicles, and East Orange Councilwoman Bernice Davis.

The at-large slate running with Shapiro included Frank Fiorito, the past president of the New Jersey State Federation of Teachers, and three political newcomers: Phillip Frese, a Belleville accountant; Lincoln Turner, a marketing manager from Montclair; and 24-year-old law student Gerald Gilligan.

Greco was the top vote-getter with 26,873 votes, followed by Davis (26,373), Turner (25,680) and Scaturo (25,098).  They defeated Fiorito (24,829), Gilligan (24,545) and Lozowick (23,812), Frese (23,417).

The other at-large candidates ran far behind the first eight.

Running with Freeholder Donald Payne were college professor John Garrett (13,018) and Katherine Trimarco (11,896), a Glen Ridge resident who was a teacher in the Newark public schools.  Two other candidates initially aligned with Payne dropped out.

On a ticket with County Treasurer Samuel Angelo were Joseph Fornarotto (5,838), the Essex County Supervisor of Rent and Housing, and Essex County College vice president John D’Esposito (5,570).

Some of the initial freeholder candidates dropped out when the campaigns of their affiliated county executive candidates withdrew.

Incumbent Freeholder Thomas McCormack, elected in 1977, found himself without a seat after Freeholder Thomas Giblin ended is run for County Executive.  Assistant County Counsel Neil Markowitz was also on the Giblin slate.

Another incumbent freeholder, James Zangari, was to run on the Giblin at-large slate.  Instead, he joined the Cryan ticket as a candidate in District 3 and faced Daniel Tindell 3d, an East Orange attorney who was running with Shapiro.

Tindell was the upset winner, defeating Zangari by 893 votes, 6,502 to 5,609 (44%-38%).

East Orange was split nearly evenly in thirds, with local community leader Goldie Burbage, running with Payne, finishing first with 2,050 votes.  Zangari came in second with 2,043 votes, just seven behind Burbage.  Tindell received 2,014 votes in his hometown.

Zangari carried his hometown, Irvington, where he was the town’s housing director, by a margin of 1,739 to Tindell’s 1,606.  Burbage received just 277 votes in Irvington.

Tindell won the election by carrying Shapiro strongholds of South Orange and Maplewood.  He beat Zangari 1,311 to 642 in Maplewood and 1,337 to 705 in South Orange.

Former Assemblyman Ralph Caputo had field to run with County Supervisor Philip Rotondo, along with former Freeholder Joseph Iannuzzi, and Jack Gold, the president of the Essex County Vocational and Technical Board of Education.  Former Irvington Council President Alexander Trento had filed to run for District 3 freeholder on the Rotondo line, but withdrew.

Former Freeholder Charles Matthews and former State Sen. Charles DeMarco (D-Newark) had filed to run with Essex County Clerk Nicholas Caputo, “The Man with the Golden Arm.”

Contests for the five district freeholder seats were shaken up with some last minute maneuvers.

In District 1, Angelo Cifelli moved from the Giblin slate into Cryan’s.  He was viewed as a compromise candidate between Democratic leaders in Newark’s North and East wards.  Miguel Rodriguez filed on the Shapiro slate.

Cifelli, the brother of Arthur Cifelli, a major player in Middlesex County politics, defeated Rodriguez 5,666 to 2,773, a 62%-30% margin.  Cifelli carried his home East Ward by a near 3-1 margin.

Julio Quinones, a Newark school board member running with Angelo, received 701 votes (8%).

Pearl Beatty, a top political ally of Newark Mayor Kenneth Gibson, ran for District 2 freeholder.  She was initially supposed to run with Giblin, but after he dropped out Beatty decided not to join the Cryan ticket and ran on her own.  She faced Clarence Coggins, an aide to Gibson who was running on the Payne line, and Shapiro candidate Ronald Tuff.  Team Cryan didn’t field a candidate against Beatty.

Beatty defeated Coggins by 1,079 votes, 4,167 to 3,088 (38%-30%).  She beat Coggins by 1,491 votes in the South Ward and 286 votes in the Central Ward.  Coggins carried the section of the West Ward in the district by 698 votes.

Trailing were Columbus Kinsey (1,913), Tuff (1,396), and Wilbert Kornegay (511).

Lorryne (Renee) Lane, one of the leaders of grassroots Citizens for Charter Change group, joined the Shapiro ticket in District 4 against the Cryan’s running mate, Dr. Francis Byrne, the governor’s brother.  A third big name candidate was supposed to be in the race, but Orange Councilman Raymond Codey, the cousin of then Assemblyman Richard Codey, dropped out when Giblin withdrew.

Lane beat Byrne by 2,076 votes, 8,335 to 6,259 (54%-40%).  Paolo DiFrancescatonio, a county Welfare Department employee running with Angelo, received 875 votes.

She won Livingston by 877 votes, Millburn by 679, and West Orange by 507.  Lane won Glen Ridge by 98 votes and West Caldwell by 167.  Her margin in Essex Fells was just two votes.

Byrne carried Verona by 82 votes, Orange by 66, Fairfield by 41, Caldwell by 38, and Roseland by 27.

In District 5, Belleville Mayor Michael Marotti was running with Cryan.  He faced Shapiro ally Robert Russo, then a Nutley resident but later the Mayor of Montclair.

Russo upset Marriott by an incredibly narrow 48 votes, 5,929 to 5,5861 (46.9%-46.6%).  Michael Accunao, running with Angelo, received 816 votes.

Marotti, who had been heavily favored to win, came out of Belleville with a 1,940-vote plurality.  He won Bloomfield by 334 votes.

Russo carried Montclair by 1,750 votes and Nutley by 374.  He won Cedar Grove and North Caldwell each by 109.

In the general election

Just two of the nine freeholder seats were in play for the general election: District 4 and District 5.

Democrats won the at-large seats by massive margins, with 48.664 votes separating the top vote-getter, Greco (110,646), and the last Republican., Maplewood businessman Norman Lapidus (61,982).  Scaturo finished second with 106,112, followed by Turner (101,239) and Davis (100,068).  Roseland Councilman Arthur Caprio came in fifth with 61,255, followed by Caldwell Councilwoman Irene Gibbons (64,189) and Charter Change activist Elizabeth Bartlett (63,244).

Cifelli won by a 69%-31% margin over Dante Milano, Beatty took 90% against Willie Bracsher, and Tindell defeated William Conway with 67%.

For Lane, the general election in District 4 wasn’t even close.

Lane defeated Orange Mayor Carmine Capone by 5,005 votes, a 55%-45% margin (28,979 to 23,974).

District 5 again had a razor-thin race that went into a recount.

On election night, Russo had led Republican James Piro by just 13 vote by the recount put the GOP candidate head by 39 votes.

The new Essex County government was to be sworn in one week after the election.  Piro picked up 44 votes in a single machine in Montclair, giving him an edge that remained throughout the count.

Democrats were so confident in Russo’s slim margin holding up that his name was included in the official program for the swearing in ceremonies.

An attorney representing Russo sought to delay Piro from taking his oath, but Judge Arthur Blake rejected the motion and then swore in the lone Republican freeholder in a ceremony that was slightly delayed by the legal wrangling.

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