Don’t mess with success.
That appeared to be Tuesday’s message from Morristown voters, who gave Mayor Tim Dougherty a third term with 73 percent of the vote.
Fellow Democrats Toshiba Foster and Michael Elms easily won re-election to their at-large council seats, too, and running mate David Silva will become the town’s first Hispanic councilman.
“Everything just clicked,” said Dougherty, who defeated Alison Deeb, a Republican councilwoman from the Fourth Ward.
The landslide was not a mandate, but rather an acknowledgment, said the Mayor, the top vote-getter with more than 2,800 ballots. Crime is low, the town is clean, visitors flock to festivals, the arts are booming.
“People believe in the process, that we’re going to do things out in the open, we don’t do things behind closed doors. We believe in the process. We believe in public input. We believe in public advocacy to shape and change projects to make them better,” Dougherty said, pledging to focus on controlled growth and regional solutions to traffic.
Silva, a Colombian immigrant who is pastor of the Centro Biblico Church, said he was grateful for the “privilege of making history.”
Vowing to help fellow Latinos “become more vibrant and more prosperous in Morristown,” Silva said he will address concerns raised by GOP challenger William Needham III
about apartment stacking.
“Many people in our Latino community need education,” the minister said. “Sometimes they live in conditions that they don’t know they are violating the law.”
Deeb, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday night, had questioned the Mayor’s claims of transparency, contending a $1.5 million bid for the Post Office bypassed the council.
She also accused him of neglecting the town’s waterways and public housing, failing to pursue comprehensive traffic solutions, going too lightly on zoning code enforcement, and over-reaching with a paid sick leave ordinance.
Republican council contenders Needham, James Sullivan Jr. and Celeste Kaitsa, who did not run with Deeb as a team, assailed the pace of development, questioned tax incentives given to re-developers, bemoaned heavy traffic and called for more open space.
But registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 2.5 to 1 in Morristown, and the Democratic ticket enjoyed a huge spending edge.
The Team Dougherty 2017 slate raised $116,000 and spent $109,000 (figures rounded), including the June primary. As of the most recent finance report, Deeb had raised about $7,600 and spent about $1,100.
Sen. Cory Booker(D-NJ) also campaigned for the Democrats, attending their kickoff and making a pair of robo-calls, including one on Tuesday.
And the incumbents had talking points that candidates anywhere would envy, starting with seven straight years of flat municipal taxes, a prosperous downtown, and stacks of awards and surveys citing Morristown among New Jersey’s most desirable places to live and work.
During the campaign Dougherty noted the town’s landmark 2015 tax settlement with the parent organization of Morristown Medical Center, construction of affordable housing, and council adoption of a “safe and welcoming” policy and a voluntary municipal I.D. program.
“I think voters were saying they’re pleased with the progress we’ve made. We’ve made a lot of changes, and they want to see more,” said Foster, who garnered the second-highest vote total, with more than 2,400.
Each of the winning council candidates surpassed 21 percent of the vote. They nearly ran the table; Silva lost in just two districts–Ward 1, District 4 and Ward 3, District 2–by a handful of votes.
Sullivan, an attorney, outpolled all the Republicans with more than 1,400 votes, or roughly 13 percent.
“It’s been an honor meeting so many of my fellow residents, and becoming a more active part of the town,” said Sullivan, who graduated from Morristown High School in 1997.
Dougherty praised Sullivan’s willingness to learn, saying the candidate attended a planning board meeting at his suggestion.
Needham, a 2002 Morristown High graduate and son of former Councilwoman Theresa Needham, said he relished campaigning, too.
“I think the experience was fantastic,” William Needham said. “We ran an old-school campaign, based on truth and awareness of what’s going on in town.”
Now, with three decisive victories under his belt, is Dougherty looking ahead to a fourth term?
“You can ask me that in three years,” the Mayor said, flashing a big grin.