Republican Sayreville Mayor Kennedy O’Brien will not seek re-election after 23 years in local office, giving Democrats a chance to win their first mayoral election in one of the state’s premier blue collar swing towns.
The Courier-News was the first to report on O’Brien’s retirement.
O’Brien, 66, ousted Democrat James Zagata after one term in 1999 by more than 1,800 votes (63%-37%).
Democrats now have a 6-0 majority on the borough council after Republican councilman Pat Lembo lost his seat last year by 725 votes to Democrat Damon Enriquez.
Elections are still close in Sayreville, where Hillary Clinton outpolled Donald Trump by just 281 votes and where Phil Murphy won by 135. Republicans came within 163 votes of winning a council seat in 2017.
The front runner for the Democratic mayoral nomination appears to be council president Daniel Buchanan. Buchanan was re-elected three years ago by over 2,000 votes.
He was the chairman of the Sayreville Housing Authority in 1996 when he became a candidate for councilman on a ticket with Republican incumbent Frank Makransky.
After Makransky dropped his re-election campaign and resigned from the council that summer, O’Brien was appointed to fill the remaining four months of his term.
O’Brien and his new running mate, 27-year-old Joseph DiBella, won the general election that year against Democrats Jeffrey Pawlowski and Dan DeLeva. O’Brien ran second, edging out Pawlowski by 628 votes.
In 1997, O’Brien made his first and only bid for higher office. He challenged freshmen Democrats John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) and Arline Friscia (D-Woodbridge) for State Assembly in the 19th district. He ran 18,494 votes behind Wisniewski and 16,401 votes behind Friscia.
When he sought re-election in 2003, O’Brien defeated Democratic councilman Thomas Macinczyk by just 345 votes (52%-48%). O’Brien won his third term in 2007 with 62% of the vote against council president Thomas Pollando.
He was re-elected in 2011 against retired U.S. Army Col. Stanley Drwal, winning by 544 votes (54%-46%).
Seeking his fifth term in 2015, O’Brien just narrowly held on against Democrat David McGill, a councilman and retired New York City police officer. He won by 273 votes (52%-48%).