Tuesday was a tough night for some long-serving incumbents in Greater Morristown.
Alison Deeb, the lone Republican on the Morristown council, was denied a fourth term by Democratic newcomer Sandi Mayer, who won the Fourth Ward seat by a 541 to 445 vote. (All results in this article are from Morris County Clerk’s Office, but are unofficial.)
Morristown Councilmen Stefan Armington (Democrat, Third Ward) and Robert Iannaccone (Independent, First Ward) were re-elected, defeating Independent Lorena Inestroza and Democrat Oliver Starnes II in their respective districts.
But Bangiola’s colleague, Peter Gallerstein, a trustee for 18 years, lost his Morris Township seat. He finished third to Melissa Spiotta, who was appointed last year to an unexpired term, and Susan Pedalino, a librarian in the Hanover school system. They will represent the Township.
Gallerstein, a cardiologist, trailed Spiotta by nearly 1,100 votes, and Pedalino by almost 700. A fourth candidate, physician Chris Crean, rounded out the field, some 223 votes behind Gallerstein.
In Morris Township’s committee race, incumbent Peter Mancuso appeared to win a seventh term–holding onto the only Republican seat on the governing body–by a 48-vote margin over Democrat William “Bud” Ravitz.
But Ravitz was not ready to concede before provisional ballots are tallied later this week.
In Morris Plains, home to GOP Assemblyman Jay Webber (who was re-elected in the 26th District) and Frank Druetzler, a Republican who served as mayor for three decades, Democrats Nancy Verga and Joan Goddard, an incumbent, won council seats.
STATE AND COUNTY RACES
A blizzard of attack mailings and cable TV ads characterized the 25th District state Assembly race, which ended with Republican incumbent Anthony M. Bucco and running mate Brian Bergen, a combat veteran from Denville, defeating Democrats Lisa Bhimani of Mendham and Darcy Draeger of Chester.
About 3,300 votes separated Bucco at the top from Draeger at the bottom.
However, Bucco, a lawyer from Mountain Lakes, will be replaced by a GOP appointment. That’s because he already has been sworn into the state Senate, succeeding his father, who died in September.
During the campaign, Bucco said it was too late to remove his name from the Assembly ballot. His opponents hammered him for it, to no avail.
In Assembly District 25, Republican incumbents BettyLou DeCroce and Webber outpolled Democrats Laura Fortgang and Christine Clarke by comfortable margins.
Statewide, voters approved a public question to allow veterans to claim their $250 property tax credit when they move to continuing care retirement communities. The measure passed in Morris County with 79 percent of the vote.
In Morris County races, Republicans also held sway. Sheriff James Gannon garnered nearly 60 percent of the vote against Democrat William Schievella to coast to a second term.
Republican Freeholder Heather Darling’s numbers were almost as impressive in her victory over Democrat Michael Thompson for county Surrogate.
Incumbent GOP Freeholders Kathy DeFillippo, Doug Cabana and Thomas Mastrangelo all won re-election with cushions of at least 10,000 votes between them and Democratic challengers Cara Parmigiani, Cary Amaro and David Timpanaro.
Thirty-one percent of Morris County’s registered voters came to the polls.
Sandi Mayer got word of her Fourth Ward council victory after hiking all day on an active volcano in New Zealand.
Her dream vacation was planned two years ago, before she decided to challenge Alison Deeb for her Morristown council seat.
“I’m thrilled to be representing the 4th Ward and look forward to hearing from my constituents and getting things done,” Mayer said via email.
But on Tuesday, Deeb blamed her defeat on a strong local showing by Democratic Assembly candidates Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger.
“The Democratic Assembly candidates at the top of the ticket got around 520 votes, and the Republican Assembly candidates got around 290. It was a coattail win at the ward level,” Deeb texted.
Mayer is a volunteer on the town Shade Tree Commission, lives in Parsons Village and works for an accounting firm. Her first priority on the council, she said, will be educating herself about issues affecting her constituents.
THE WAR OF INDEPENDENTS
In the First Ward, Robert Iannaccone’s defeat of Democrat Oliver Starnes II (410 to 333 votes) turned largely on a strong showing in District One, which includes Iannaccone’s neighborhood. (The First Ward has four voting districts and includes the downtown.)
“I’m glad the campaign is over. Now I can get back to being a councilman,” said Iannaccone, who won his second term. The CEO of St. Michael’s Hospital in Newark switched from Republican to Independent for this election.
“The lesson I learned from running as an Independent is, people will vote for you as a person, and not a party,” he said.
Councilman Stefan Armington garnered nearly 63 percent of the vote to win a third term. But he said opponent Lorena Inestroza, an Independent, opened his eyes to problems affecting seniors in public housing in the Third Ward.
Inestroza, who has stated she is in recovery from substance abuse, has called attention to drug overdoses in the complex. Armington plans to meet with Inestroza and her campaign manager, Will Needham, to assess the situation and other concerns.
“She ran a good race for her first time. She got really good numbers and she should try again,” said Armington, a Democrat.
Mayor Tim Dougherty campaigned for Armington and was elated the councilman prevailed over what the mayor called “distorted” rhetoric from Inestroza’s camp. “Stefan stayed positive and true to his values,” Dougherty said.
At the same time, he praised Inestroza and Needham for waging a hard-fought campaign.
The mayor said he looks forward to working with Inestroza in the future. He even suggested making Needham–the son of a former council rival–his campaign manager.
Dougherty also congratulated Iannaccone for his First Ward win, while praising his opponent. “Ollie Starnes did a good job for his first time out,” the mayor said.
Running unopposed, Democrat Tawanna Cotten netted 369 votes in the Second Ward.
‘GRASSROOTS KIND OF BOARD’
The mayor’s biggest disappointment Tuesday was the defeat of his friend, former town Administrator Michael Rogers, in the school board election.
Nancy Bangiola bested Rogers 1080 to 839, in a campaign emphasizing her 15 years of experience, and her belief that the line between school- and municipal governments should not be blurred.
“I got outspent by about 10-to-one. (Rogers) did a lot of mailings and old-school kinds of politics. I’m in favor of a more grassroots kind of school board, that’s a representation of parents, taxpayers and the community at a very local level,” said Bangiola, a lawyer and executive director of the Morris County Bar Association.
“Politics at large in the school board arena is not a healthy thing,” she added.
Vij Pawar, Morristown’s town attorney and a political adviser to the mayor, was elected to the board last year.
Bangiola has served with Rogers– “a great candidate and a nice guy”–on the board of the Morristown & Township Library.
“First, congratulations to Nancy,” Rogers, who has a young daughter in the school district, said via text message.
“I am disappointed with the outcome but accept the result, and remain humbled by all my volunteers and supporters in the community. I look forward to the future and continuing to stay engaged on school board matters.”