The swearing in this week of independent Anthony Talerico as the new mayor of Eatontown likely marks the end of a long political career for Democrat Gerald Tarantolo, who spent sixteen years as mayor and lost his bid for a comeback last month.
Tarantolo began his political career in 1985 when he won a seat on the Eatontown Borough Council. After winning re-election three times, he challenged Republican Mayor Edward Stominski in 1998 and beat him by 402 votes. Dual office-holding was legal in those days and Stominski was re-elected Monmouth County freeholder the same day.
When Tarantolo ran for re-election to a fifth term as mayor in 20914, Republican Dennis Connelly beat him by just two votes, 1,482 to 1,480. The GOP took full control of the town that year with a 5-2 majority on the borough council.
The Democratic party imploded after Tarantolo’s loss. Democratic councilwoman Janice Kroposky opted not to seek re-election. Another Democratic councilman, Anthony Talerico, got into a battle with local Democrats over the choice of whom he would run with, leading him to switch parties and seek re-election as an independent.
As independents, Talerico and running mate Virginia East beat the Democratic and Republican candidates in 2015. That left Eatontown without any Democrats on the governing body.
Over the next three cycles, Democrats won six council seats. After losing four GOP council allies in 2016 and 2017, Connelly did not seek re-election in 2018.
The new Democrats had no allegiances to the Tarantolo wing of the party and were all new faces. When Connelly didn’t run, an election showdown ended up between 31-year -old council president Patricia May, former Republican councilman Regan and Talerico.
May dropped out after the filing deadline and joined local and state Democratic leaders in endorsing Talerico’ s bid for Mayor.
Tarantolo, irate at local Democrats, came back to run as a write-in campaign. The 83-year-old waged an unsuccessful write in campaign, nearly being a spoiler for Republicans. Talerico won the election with 1701 votes, followed by Regan at 1678 and Tarantolo with over 500 write-in votes. For the first time in nearly 30 years, there is no Republican sitting on the Eatontown governing body.
Stominski had first been elected mayor in 1994, when five-term mayor Joseph Frankel, a Democrat, retired. He defeated fellow councilman Ted Lewis, who is now the executive director of the Eatontown Sewer Authority. He remained on the freeholder board until 2004, when Matawan mayor (now assemblyman) Rob Clifton ousted him in the Republican primary.
In 2005 and 2006, Stominski mounted unsuccessful campaigns for Monmouth County Republican chairman.