Though Democrats lost seats in the statehouse, they fared well at the local level in 2019, picking up majorities or mayorships in 11 towns on top of proxy victories elsewhere.
The biggest win of the year was in Hamilton, where Council President Jeff Martin ousted incumbent Republican Mayor Kelly Yaede, beating her 13,054-10,251 to win the executive seat of New Jersey’s ninth-largest municipality.
Martin’s running mates, Pat Papero and Nancy Phillips defeated Republican newcomers Richard Balgowan and Vincent Capodanno to win the last two GOP-held seats on Hamilton’s Council.
Councilman Ralph Mastrangelo and Councilwoman Ileana Schirmer, both Republicans, did not seek re-election, avoiding a race that was marked by toxicity even during the primary, when Yaede faced a challenge from longtime opponent David Henderson and his slate of candidates.
That race was the only major contest in Mercer County.
In Bergen, Democrats won East Rutherford’s mayorship by just five votes.
Democrat Jeffrey Lahullier edged out Sergio Segalini, 854-849, after trailing the Republican candidate by 20 votes in the election-day machine totals. That race is headed to court.
Despite Lahullier’s win, Republicans ended unanimous Democratic rule of the town’s council.
Nancy Banka won a single Democratic council seat there. Democratic Councilman George Cronk held onto his seat, meaning Democrats still have a 5-1 council majority there.
In Morris, Democrats made strides despite losing at the county level.
Democrat Richard Corcoran won the town’s mayorship over Republican Cyril Wekilsky, Joseph Bock ousted Democratic Alderman William McBride in the town’s third ward to give the GOP a 5-3 majority on the board.
In Chatham Borough, Thaddeus Kobylarz defeated Republican Councilman Robert Weber to win the mayor’s seat.
Kobylarz’s running mates, Irene Treloar and Karen Koronkiewicz, defeated Republicans Paul Kelley and Stacey McEvoy.
The latter wins give Democrats a 4-1 majority. Republican incumbents James Collander and Victoria Fife did not seek re-election.
Democrats won two council seats in Chatham Township, winning a 3-2 majority after Democrats Stacey Ewald and Celeste Fondaco defeated Republicans Mark Hamilton and Mareza Rez Estevez.
In Dover, Alderwoman Carolyn Blackman defeated incumbent James Dodd to win the town’s mayorship.
Dodd ran as an independent after losing the support of county Democrats in 2018. The insurgent county-backed Democrats now hold a majority of seats on Dover’s board of alderman.
Democrats saw some incredibly narrow wins and a small number of losses in Middlesex County.
They won Sayreville’s mayorship by just three votes.
Provisional ballots and final-hour mail-in ballots helped Democratic Councilwoman Victoria Kilpatrick defeat Republican Councilman Arthur Rittenhouse overcome a 33-vote deficit on election day.
Republican Donna Roberts won a council seat there, ending unanimous Democratic rule of the town’s council. Democrat Michele Cassidy Maher won the other seat up for a vote, meaning her party will still hold a 5-1 majority there.
In Milltown, Democrats held on to the mayorship and won two Republican-held council seats.
Democratic Councilwoman Trina Mehr defeated Councilman Richard Revolinsky to replace outgoing Mayor Eric Steeber. Mehr’s council seat will be filled after she takes office next month.
Wins by Democrats Anna Neubaer and Phil Zambrana over Republican Councilman Dorian Kerber and Kyle Livingston give Democrats a 5-1 majority on Milltown’s council.
Republicans hold a 5-1 majority in South River going into the new decade after Donna Balaza and Anthony Ciulla ousted incumbent Democrats Jack Alaie and Julie Meira. Republican Mayor John Krenzel won a third term over challenger Tele Koukourdelis.
Middlesex Borough Mayor Ronald DiMura, a Democrat, lost re-election by a 64%-36% margin to Republican John Madden. Earlier this month, the state attorney general charged DiMura with stealing money from a charity.
In Union, Democrats secured three of the four Westfield council seats up for a race, giving Democratic Mayor Shelly Brindle a 7-1 majority in Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick’s hometown.
Councilman Mark LoGrippo is the only Westfield Republican to have survived the year’s local elections.
Democrats in Somerset County flipped a single local government.
Peter Martino and Wendy Robinson defeated Republican Councilman George Sopko and his running mate, Amber Heard, in Watchung, giving Democrats a 4-2 majority on the council and control of the town’s mayorship just two years after Republicans held complete control over the local government.
In Monmouth, Democrat-backed independents ended a Republican majority in Oceanport and secured a majority in on the Bradley Beach Council.
In Oceanport, Independents Thomas Tvrdik and Meghan Walker ousted Councilman Joseph Irace and Councilman Stephen Solan, giving Republicans and independents each three seats on the six-member board.
Mayor Jay Coffey, an Independent, easily won re-election.
In Bradley Beach, the Fair Transparent Government – Real Change slate, which was backed by county Democrats, held onto their two seats and won two others, ousting Republican-backed incumbents Harold Cotler and Normal Goldfarb.
Republicans did score major win in Atlantic Highlands.
There, Loretta Gluckstein ousted incumbent Democratic Mayor Rhonda LeGrice, and GOP Council candidates Stephen Boracchia and Brian Boms defeated Democratic Councilwoman Kerri Kennedy and her running mate, Linda Peng-Grooters.
The council wins give the Atlantic Highlands GOP a 4-2 majority.
Democrats didn’t face any such major losses in Essex County.
They won a majority on the Roseland Borough Council after Democrat Moose Trillo defeated Republican Aristotle Poplizio, who was running for Councilman David Jacobs’ seat on the six-member board.
Republican Councilwoman Jean Perrotti defended her seat from George Meleas, but Trillo’s win is enough to give Democrats a 4-2 majority.
In Caldwell, Democrats Jeffrey Gates and Frances DePalma-Iozzi defeated Republican Councilman Pasqual Capozzoli and his running mate, Sue Ann Penna.
The wins give them a 4-1 majority on the council on top of control of the borough’s mayorship.