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Former North Caldwell Councilman Joshua Raymond. (Photo: McManimon Scotland).

North Caldwell Democrats ready to poach one, maybe two Republicans

Ex-GOP councilman Josh Raymond is likely Democratic mayoral candidate; incumbent Councilman Arthur Rees mulling party switch

By David Wildstein, March 01 2022 8:00 pm

North Caldwell Democrats are seeking to take control of local government for the first time in more than 100 years, with a former Republican councilman preparing to run for mayor and a current GOP councilman mulling a party switch to run with him.

Joshua Raymond,  a partner at the politically influential McManimon Scotland law firm who served two terms on the borough council, will take on Mayor Joseph Alessi.  He’ll run on a slate with two council candidates, including Steve Weinstein, a cousin of Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff), who grew up in North Caldwell.

Republicans have a 4-2 majority on the Borough Council, with GOP councilmen Arthur Rees and Kenneth Tilton up this year.

Rees told the New Jersey Globe that he would seek re-election, but hasn’t ruled out running as a
Democrat with Raymond, his former running mate.

“That’s still up in the air,” Rees said.  “I ran with Josh.  I know where he stands.  At this point, I lean toward Josh.”

Rees said local elections shouldn’t be partisan.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are a Republican or a Democrat,” he said.  “I’ll either run as a Republican or support Josh as a Democrat.”

Weinstein is the former head of securitized products at Bank of America.  He contributed $2,000 to Gottheimer’s 2016 campaign to unseat Rep. Scott Garrett (R-Wantage).  Now he might expect a return on his investment from his cousin, the Human Fundraising Machine.

North Caldwell was Republican enough that Democrats didn’t bother running local candidates in the 1973 and 1974 Watergate wave elections, or in the 1964 LBJ landslide.  But the borough has become more politically competitive over the last decade.

Joe Biden carried North Caldwell by 236 votes in 2020, with U.S. Senator Cory Booker winning by 89 and Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) by 178.   In 2016, Donald Trump had a 122-vote plurality and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Harding) won by 829.  Mitt Romney outpolled Barack Obama by 790 votes in 2012.

In 2020, Democrats scored their first local victories in more than a century, with Anthony Floria-Callori (2,260) and Matthew Atlas (2,241) ousting two Republican incumbents, John Chiaia (2,165) and Cynthia Santomauro (2,157).   Raymond backed the two Democratic candidates.

Republicans swept North Caldwell in 2021, with Jack Ciattarelli winning by 165 votes against Gov. Phil Murphy – a little better than Kim Guadagno’s 121-vote margin against Murphy in 2017.   Republicans had carried North Caldwell by 597 votes in the 2009 governor’s race.

But last year, Democrats chose not to compete, allowing Republican Councilmen Robert Kessler and Francis Astorino to run unopposed.

Alessi won 71% of the vote against independent Richard Verde in 2018.  He was unopposed in 2010, when he succeeded Mayor Mel Levine, and again in 2014.

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