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Sussex County Democratic Chairwoman Katie Rotundi.

Rotondi ousted as Sussex Democratic chair

Rowe wins with 65% in special election

By David Wildstein, June 09 2020 11:20 pm

Katie Rotondi lost her bid for re-election as Sussex County Democratic Chair tonight.

Dawne Rowe defeated Rotondi by a vote of 90 to 48, a 65%-35% margin in race that was dominated for the last few weeks by Rotondi’s allegation that Warren County Democratic Chairman Tom Palmieri sexually harassed her.

Rotondi, who took over as county chair last year following the resignation of Leslie Huhn, was not due to face a vote until June 2021, but agreed to a 2020 election after the New Jersey Democratic State Committee stepped in to mediate infighting within the Sussex Democratic party.

Rowe’s slate of leadership candidates were also successful.

Scott Fadden was elected vice chair, Leslie Boen is the new secretary, and Diane Wexler is now treasurer.

In February, a group of 65 county committee members led by three municipal chairs — Sally Goodson of Hardyston, Lisa Anderson of Vernon and Sally Larson of Sparta — sought her resignation, saying the “environment became poisonous.”

Rotondi, who spent the last few months recovering from COVID-19, acknowledged personality clashes with several Democratic leaders.

Following Rotondi’s allegations, Palmieri quickly assembled a group of women to defend him.

Politico New Jersey had reported Rotondi’s accusations against Palmieri, which include claims of sexual harassment and a charge that the Warren chairman joked about drugging her drink during a fundraiser at Gov. Phil Murphy’s home.

Huhn and 2019 Assembly candidate Deana Lykins supported Palmieri.

Vernon Mayor Howard Burrell, the last Democrat to serve on the Sussex County Board of Freeholders, endorsed Rowe.

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