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Small town councilman once forgot he was up for re-election

Joseph Skillodge dies at 99

By David Wildstein, January 03 2019 11:25 am

Stockton (pop. 538) is the 14th smallest municipality in New Jersey, and politics there is often casual.

One year, two incumbents forgot that they were up for re-election and never filed petitions.  Councilman Joseph Skillodge, a four-term incumbent, wound up losing a write-in bid in the Democratic primary and then losing his seat in the general election.

Skillodge, who served 27 years on the Borough Council, died on December 30.  The World War II Army veteran was 99.

He was elected councilman in 1974 and re-elected in 1977, 1980 and 1983.

In 1986, Skillodge and Republican councilman Anthon Suozzo forgot that their terms were up and never filed their nominating petitions.  They figured they could run as write-n candidates in the primary but hadn’t counted on others having the same idea.

Democrat Tony Danese received 20 write-in votes, while Skillodge and Greg Huljack tied with nine write-ins.

Election officials decided that since Skillodge and Huljack were tied, neither would get on the ballot to run with Danese.

In the general election, Danese won with 120 votes and Huljack took the second seat with 95 votes.  Skillodge (76 votes) and Suozzo (68 votes) were defeated.

Skillodge lost a comeback bid in 1987 when he won 84 votes against Republicans Suozzo (109) and Neal Esposito (104).

He returned to the council in 1989 when only one candidate, Republican Anthony Danese, filed nominating petitions for two open council seats.  Skillodge and Helen Smith ran as write-in candidates; Skillodge was nominated with 11 write-in votes and won the general election when he edged out Smith, his running mate, by 30 votes.

He was unopposed for reelection in 1992 and again in 1995, with one Democrat and one Republican running for two council seats.

Skillodge defeated Republican Celeste Lane in 1998 by a 153 to 62 vote.

He defeated Republican Donald Vandegrift by twelve votes in 2001.

In 2004, at age 85, he lost re-election by just five votes.  His running mate, Michael Hagerty, was the top vote-getter, and Skillodge ran third behind Republican councilman Andrew Giannattasio.

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