Despite an investigation that hit close to home, and an opponent who made a point of it, Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty breezed to victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary to earn a shot at a fourth term in November.
The 62-year-old mayor garnered 75 percent of the vote against challenger Esperanza Porras-Field on a muggy, stormy day with light turnout for the first in-person election since the pandemic shutdown in March 2020.
“Morristown has spoken. There is no place in Morristown for the negative smear campaign that my opponent ran,” Dougherty said.
“We took a lot of hits. But you know what, we stood strong. When they went low, we went high,” he told supporters at Morris County’s Democratic headquarters on Washington Street. “The election shows what Morristown is willing to accept, and what they’re not willing to accept…My hat’s off to the residents of Morristown.”
“I don’t know what he’s talking about,” Porras-Field said when asked about the mayor’s characterization of her campaign.
“I said from the beginning, there are many concerned residents about what’s going on in town with the development, with the lawsuits, with the term limits.
“I’m going to continue fighting for term limits. I think it’s important that we have new leadership,” said the realtor, 67, after thanking supporters gathered at the Iron Bar.
Dougherty tallied 1,067 votes, to 350 for Porras-Field, according to the Morris County Clerk’s Office. About 25 percent of Morristown’s registered Democrats voted, Dougherty said.
Video: Primary candidates air their differences one more time:
Porras-Field, a Colombian immigrant who founded the Morris County Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce, had hoped to become the first Hispanic person, and first woman, to serve as mayor.
Endorsed by Gov. Phil Murphy and other top state officials, Dougherty campaigned with his council slate on a record of mostly flat taxes, high-end development, affordable housing, and new or improved parks.
Throughout, the mayor did not field questions about the pay-to-play investigation that resulted in probation for his wife, for a campaign finance violation in her 2018 run for county office.
“How do you feel, Mary?” a jubilant Dougherty asked his spouse Tuesday night in front of volunteers and council members.
“Great, hon!” she answered, to cheers and applause.
In a year when no Republican has announced for mayor, a Democratic primary victory would seem to ensure a fourth term for Dougherty.
But over at the Iron Bar, the crowd included an old foe, former mayor Donald Cresitello, who earlier on Tuesday filed to run as an Independent.
Toppled by Dougherty by a two-to-one margin in the 2009 primary, Cresitello indicated he plans to pick up the drumbeat started by Porras-Field.
Dougherty said the reappearance of Cresitello, controversial for supporting the deputizing of police as immigration enforcement officers, did not surprise him.
“He has run as a Republican, a Democrat, and now an Independent,” Dougherty said. “The man can change his party. But he can never change his past record. Which speaks for itself.”