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Winners & Losers: May 2018 Municipal Elections

The Year of the Ground Game

By David Wildstein, May 11 2018 3:30 am

 

Special Edition: May 2018 Municipal Elections
The Year of the Ground Game
(Editor’s Note: All names are listed in alphabetical order.  For the most part, candidates who won an election are not listed as winners and those who were unsuccessful are not among the losers — that kind of list would demonstrate a severe lack of creativity.  Instead, this list is about those who benefit or suffer because of the outcome of an election.)
Winner Losers
PHIL ALAGIA  CHRIS CHRISTIE
The prominent Democratic strategist and chief of staff to the Essex County Executive has been running Steve Adubato’s old North Ward political operation for years.  He pulled 80% of the vote for Mayor Ras Baraka and North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos. The former governor of New Jersey, five months after leaving office, was used as an issue in two mayoral campaigns where the incumbent had endorsed him in 2013.  Ray Kimble of Belleville and Adam Schneider of Long Branch both lost.
MIDDY BARAKA PABLO FONSECA
The campaign for his brother’s re-election campaign as mayor of Newark got 77% of the vote — the highest percentage in a contested mayoral election in the city’s history.  The former chief of staff to Mayor Cory Booker had a bad night in his home base of Newark’s East Ward, when his daughter finished fourth in a city council race.
MODIA BUTLER BRIAN HUGHES
 The Mercury Public Affairs executive and top political advisor to U.S. Sen. Cory Booker played a key role in the Newark mayoral race, bringing Booker and Baraka, once political rivals, squarely in to the same unified tent.  The Mercer County Executive and the most powerful Democrat in the county went all-in for Walker Worthy for mayor of Trenton and his candidate didn’t even make it to the runoff.
NICHOLAS
CHIARAVALLOTI 
SHARPE JAMES
The Assemblyman from Bayonne, emerging as a strong powerbroker, was essentially re-elected for 2019 and 2021 with the re-election of Mayor Jimmy Davis.  Had Davis lost, Chiaravalloti would have been gone.  The former mayor of Newark has lost a little of his juice: his son was re-elected South Ward councilman, but only got 58% of the vote — an extraordinarily unimpressive win.
JOHN CURRIE KEVIN JENKINS
The Passaic County Democratic Chairman & NJ Democratic State Chairman played an key role in the election of Andre Sayegh as the new mayor of Paterson The husband and chief political strategist of Gayle Cheneyfield Jenkins, who encouraged his wife to give up what would have been a safe city council seat — she was repeatedly offered a spot on the Baraka Team slate — to embark on a truly disastrous campaign for mayor.  His wife received just 23% of the vote — the worst defeat in the history of Newark mayoral elections — losing all five wards, including the Central Ward, where she has served as a city councilwoman.  (To be clear, the Central was Cheneyfield-Jenkins’ best ward — she got 25.1% of the vote there.) Jenkins failed to meet fundraising goals, came up with a flawed strategy and ground game,  either misread the polling (or never did a real poll at all), and possibly ruined the political careers of several young prospects whom he help convince to join his wife’s slate.  He couldn’t hold former mayor Sharpe James in place — the onetime Baraka critic endorsed the incumbent a week before the election.  Most stinging is that the candidate for his his wife’s Central Ward council seat failed to even make it to the runoff.  Gayle Cheneyfield Jenkins is unemployed as of July 1, and replacing her $90,00 salary will be a tough lift in the public or private sectors.  Without his wife on the city council, Jenkins — once the Central Ward Republican Chairman — could lose some clients too.
JOE DEMARCO
The former Bernardsville councilman-turned-Bayonne business administrator took a leave to manage Mayor Jimmy Davis’ re-election campaign and won 57% of the vote.
ED FARMER
The Democratic strategist and longtime Pascrell loyalist plays a key role in the election of Andre Sayegh as mayor of Paterson
KEITH FURLONG
The Democratic strategist and top ally of Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie played a major role in Andre Sayegh’s landslide victory in the Paterson mayoral race.
SAMMY GONZALEZ
The North Ward Democratic Chairman ran the day-to-day campaign for city councilman Anibal Ramos and the ward race for mayor Ras Baraka — 80% of the vote for both.
MOHAMMED HAMEEDUDDIN WAYNE LEVANTE
The mayor of Teaneck got his entire slate of Township Council candidates elected. The soon-to-be ex-mayor of Newton lost because of a dumb forced error: a Facebook post on the Parkland school shooting.
 GERI JANNARONE MARK MATZEN 
 The Monmouth County Democratic ground game operative played a key role in John Pallone’s outsized victory in the Long Branch mayoral race.  The Democratic strategist runs the campaign of 33-year-old Duncan Harrison for mayor of Trenton and his candidate gets just 8% of the vote.
LEROY JONES DOUG PALMER 
The Essex County Democratic Chairman provided strong leadership that united the county Democratic organization in support of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka’s re-election.   The former mayor of Trenton tried to make a comeback as a leading advocate for Walker Worthy’s election as mayor, but his old popularity no longer meant votes.
BOB MENENDEZ  PATERSON PBA
The United States Senator was an early and active supporter of Bayonne mayor Jimmy Davis, Newark mayor Ras Baraka, and his friend of 30+ years, Newark city councilman Luis Quintana.   The political clout of the Paterson Police Department looked weak when their union chief, Alex Cruz, who weekends in nearby Little Falls, got just 4% of the vote in the race for mayor.
PHIL MURPHY NELLIE POU
The governor of New Jersey backed Ras Baraka in Newark and Jimmy Davis and Bayonne and now benefits from a strong, active Democratic base engaged in key New Jersey towns, and helped with a stable Paterson city government. The State Senator and Paterson City Business Administrator might be out of a job come July, when newly-elected Andre Sayegh becomes mayor.
 BRENDAN NEAL MATT SCHNEIDER
The chief of staff-turned-campaign manager for Assemblyman Reed Gusciora’s mayoral campaign makes the runoff. The owner of the consulting firm hired to run Jason O’Donnell’s field operation in Bayonne did a truly shitty job, leading some people to wonder why he wanted to keep a low profile personally. 
DAVE PARANO BILL WATSON
The Democratic field operative gets wins in Paterson, Trenton and Long Branch.  The Trenton Democratic legend shows no mojo as his hand-picked candidate for mayor gets just 8% of the vote. 
BILL PASCRELL III CALVIN WEST
The Passaic County Counsel and Democratic powerhouse plays heavily on the campaign of Andre Sayegh for mayor of Paterson. The 85-year-old Newark insider was among the most powerful political leaders in North Jersey for decades.  He became the first Black to win a citywide election in 1966 when he was elected councilman-at-large on a slate with mayor Hugh Addonizio.  He wielded enormous power in Essex County, helped guide Sharpe James to the mayoralty, and worked for three governors.  It’s sad that he got roped in to what could be his final campaign — the catastrophic Gayle Cheneyfield Jenkins for Mayor race.  
SUSAN RAGHED
The talented rising star took time off from her job in Nicholas Chiaravalloti’s Assembly office to work on the ground game for Bayonne mayor Jimmy Davis’s campaign.
MITCH SEIM
The Democratic operative who helped elect Brick mayor John Ducey ran the successful campaign of John Pallone for mayor of Long Branch that ousted a 28-year incumbent. Editor’s Note: Several building trades unions played heavily in the Bayonne mayoral race in support of Jason O’Donnell, who wound up losing that race by a wide margin. But the same unions backed the winning candidates in two other top local races: Andre Sayegh in Paterson and John Pallone in Long Branch.  That evens the day out a bit.  
MICHAEL SOLIMAN
The Mercury Public Affairs partner and Menendez for Senate campaign chairman played an important role in the re-election of Jimmy Davis as the mayor of Bayonne.
 BRIAN STACK
The Union City mayor runs unopposed and gets 11,000 votes; to put that into some perspective: Newark is four times the size and Ras Baraka got 21,000 votes.
PHIL SWIBINSKI
The second-generation Democratic political consultant — one of the best in the state today — scored significant wins: in Bayonne, where mayor Jimmy Davis won a landslide 57%; and in Belleville, where Michael Melham ousted a three-term mayor.
JOE WAKS
The veteran Democratic operative ran the Progressive Values Committee, which went in big for Andre Sayegh’s Paterson mayoral campaign.
CHRISTINA ZUK
The Trenton lobbyist and Democratic operative played an outsized role in electing John Pallone as the mayor of Long Branch.
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