North Arlington Mayor Joseph Bianchi has died, borough officials confirmed.
Bianchi, a Republican, was seeking re-election to a second term in November.
Voting has already begun in Bergen County, where vote-by-mail ballots were stopped and reprinted after the New Jersey Secretary of State unexpectedly called a special election for Sheriff.
“It’s a devastating loss for North Arlington. Joe’s a sweetheart of a person,” said Al Granell, a former Democratic councilman who is running as an independent. “The people of North Arlington should be circling the wagons in support of Joe’s family.”
Democrats are running Mark Yampaglia, a councilman. Lillian Saldahana is also running as an independent.
Bergen County Republican Chairman Jack Zisa said that he was saddened by Bianchi’s death.
“He was a very dedicated mayor. He worked and lived in the community. He was absolutely available to his constituents,” Zisa said. “He will be missed.”
The owner of Pal Joey’s Barber Shop since 1965, Bianchi spent decades on the North Arlington Fire Department and as a member of the planning and zoning boards.
“My family and I will pray for Mayor Bianchi and his family. This is a devastating loss for not only North Arlington but all of New Jersey,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson). “Mayor Bianchi was a dedicated public servant and a good man. May he rest in peace.”
There is some precedent to a deceased candidate remaining on the ballot.
In 1945, the Democratic candidate for East Paterson (now Elmwood Park) councilman, Robert Brett, remained on the general election ballot despite his October 3 death. A New Jersey Supreme Court Justice ruled that against a bid by Democrats to replace him on the ballot. Brett wound up defeating Republican Charles Brustlin by 72 votes, 1,109 to 1,037.
In 2005, Joseph DeFalco, the principal at Hackensack High School and a candidate for councilman, died in the shower on Election day morning. He won the election.
If Bianchi wins re-election posthumously, the North Arlington Republican County Committee would select three candidates to replace him. The Borough Council, which currently has a 4-2 GOP majority, would select the new mayor from that list.
Voters would elect a new mayor in a 2019 special election for the remaining 38 months of the term.