North Bergen Mayor Nicholas J. Sacco won an overwhelming landslide victory over challenger Larry Wainstein as voters re-elected him to a 10th term on the township commission on Tuesday evening.
Sacco won a head-to-head contest against Wainstein with 69%, 7,768 to 4,026 — six points better than his 2015 victory against Wainstein.
He carried all 40 of the voting districts in North Bergen, including the five districts in the 4th ward, where Wainstein had made his opposition to a $1.7 billion power plant along the Ridgefield border a major campaign issue.
Sacco’s rout comes after six years of attacks from Wainstein, who reported loaning himself $661,774 for his 2019 campaign, according to reports he filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission earlier this month.
Wainstein got under Sacco’s skin and the mayor’s substantial political organization went into overdrive in what turned out to a successful bid to run up the score.
Sacco criticized Wainstein for owing over $100,000 to the Internal Revenue Service and for endorsing Chris Christie for re-election as governor in 2013.
All four of Sacco’s running mates – incumbents Hugo Cabrera (8,332), Frank Gargiulo (8,298), Allen Pascual (8,268) and Julio Marenco (8,258) – coasted to re-election.
Wainstein finished sixth in the race for five commission seats, 4,232 votes behind Marenco.
Wainstein’s running mates ran a few hundred votes behind the top of their ticket: Diana Ortiz received 3,696 votes, followed by Franklin Fabre (3,637), Alcides Siri (3,627) and Juan Almanzar (3,624). This was the second defeat for Siri and Almanzar, who ran on the Wainstein slate four years ago.
Sacco was first elected North Bergen commissioner in 1985, when his mentor, Mayor Leo Gattoni, convinced the Mocco Brothers – local political bosses Joe and Peter Mocco – to put him on their ticket, even though they didn’t particularly want the popular public school principal to run for office.
When a scandal finally took the Mocco Brothers down, Gattoni was convinced to step aside in 1991 and let Sacco be Mayor.
Two years later, Sacco forged an alliance with Union City – State Sen. Bob Menendez and Mayor Bruce Walter, the Hudson County Democratic chairman – and challenged State Sen. Thomas Cowan (D-Jersey City) in the Democratic primary after Cowan never returned Sacco’s phone call.
Sacco beat Cowan by 7,046 votes, 67%-33% and is now serving his 8th term in the New Jersey Senate.
Joe Mocco sought a political comeback as a strategist for the Wainstein campaign.