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Huge field seeks 7 Clifton city council seats

Mayor in office for 40 years; ex-assemblyman seeking 7th term

By David Wildstein, November 03 2018 5:49 pm

The entire Clifton City Council is up for election on Tuesday, with thirteen candidates seeking seven seats in a non-partisan election.  Clifton switched from May to November local elections for the first time in 2014.

All seven incumbents are seeking re-election and the race features some veteran officeholders, including two former councilmembers who are seeking comebacks.

Mayor James Anzaldi is seeking re-election to a 11th term.  He has been on the city council since 1978 and has been mayor since 1990.

By tradition, the top vote-getter in the council race becomes mayor.  In 2014, Anzaldi finished 2,334 votes ahead of Bill Gibson, a former police officer who won his first term on the council.

Councilman Peter Eagler is running for a 7th term. He was first elected in 1990 and served until 2002, when he won a State Assembly seat.  He returned to the council in 2006. He finished 6th in his 2014 re-election bid.

Steven Hatala, Jr. has been a councilman since 1998, and Joseph Kolodziej, Jr. was elected in 2010.  Kolodziej finished 3rd and Hatala came in 4th in the last election.

Gibson and Lauren Murphy are both seeking re-election to their second terms.  Raymond Grabowski won a 2015 special election following the death of his brother, Matthew, and is seeking his first full-term.  Murphy won by just 147 votes four years ago.

They face six opponents, including former councilman Frank Fusco and former councilwoman Mary Sadrakula.  Fusco, a Republican who lost a State Senate race to Nia Gill in 2003 and a freeholder bid in 2011, was defeated for re-election to his council seat eight years ago.  Sadrakula lost her seat in 2014.

The rother candidates are Board of Education vice president Rosemary Pino, Malvin Frias-Asencio, Steven Goldberg, and George Silva.  Goldberg ran four years ago and finished 10th out of 15 candidates, 841 votes behind Murphy.

Anzaldi ran for higher office in 1989 as the Republican candidate for Passaic County Clerk.  He lost to incumbent William Kattak.

Eagler was first elected in 1990, at age 36, and in 1996 won a seat on the Passaic County Board of Freeholders.  He was elected assemblyman in 2001, when the 34th district was redrawn to include parts of Essex County.  He defeated nine-term Republican Assemblyman Gerald Zecker, a former Clifton mayor, by a margin of nearly 2-1 after the district added Democratic strongholds of East Orange and Montclair.

He remained on the ticket in 2003 when Democrats dropped incumbent Willis Edwards and replaced him on the ticket with Essex County Freeholder Sheila Oliver.  In 2005, Democrats replaced Eagler when Essex decided to take the second Assembly seat and give it to Thomas Giblin.

Kolodziej comes from local political royalty.  His father was elected in 1978 and died in office two years later.  His mother, Gloria Kolodziej, won a special election to replace him in 1981 and became mayor in 1982.  She nearly won an Assembly seat in 1987; angry that Democrats didn’t consider her for Bob Roe’s open House seat in 1992, she ran as in independent against another Clifton Democrat who won the seat, Herbert Klein.   She was mayor for eight years and a councilwoman until 2010, when she retired and backed her son as her successor.

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