‘Morristown has spoken’: Dougherty breezes to primary victory, says voters rejected ‘smear campaign’

Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty announces primary victory, June 8, 2021. Morris Democratic Chairman Chip Robinson is to his left. Photo by Kevin Coughlin


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.

Mayoral primary challenger Esperanza Porras-Field, with her daughter Hope, thanks supporters at the Iron Bar, June 8, 2021. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“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.

Although Dougherty was not named in a state bribery probe that implicated his wife, Porras-Field had suggested otherwise–as had Morristown’s PBA, which backed her candidacy.

Mayor Tim Dougherty got his party’s approval to seek a fourth term, primary night , June 8, 2021. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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.

Former Mayor Donald Cresitello, who is running for mayor as an Independent in the fall, listens to defeated Democratic primary candidate Esperanza Porras-Field thank her supporters at the Iron Bar, June 8, 2021. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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.”

Mary Dougherty, left, exults with her husband, Mayor Tim Dougherty, right, as he announces victory in a primary race in which she became an issue, June 8, 2021. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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  1. And to be clear, trading a $10K cash bribe for illegal straw donor checks is still a bribe. I’m betting individual #1 wasn’t happy when Mary returned home with cash, too easy to trace. So his advice was to ask for illegal checks instead. Nice team work.

  2. to d – “those facts are entirely irrelevant to the performance of the mayor”. How so? The coffee cup 10K was in exchange for O’Donnell’s future legal work for the town. Mary, as a candidate only, wasn’t in a position to offer that work without the Mayor’s/Council’s knowledge and cooperation, right? And a guilty plea to a downgraded charge IS a conviction, to a lesser degree.

  3. Morristown has not spoken. Dougherty got less votes than his Council at Large slate…in fact he only got 20% of the registered democrats in Morristown. That’s nothing to brag about. Anxiously waiting for November!

    And as far as his wife is concerned, she had every intention of committing a felony. If you read the affidavit of arrest ( which is public) .
    It states that CW (Matt O’Donnell) received a phone call from Individual #1 requesting straw donor money for Mary Dougherty for Freeholder. CW affirms that he has been providing Individual #1 with straw donor money since 2011. In a subsequent conversation which was recorded, Mary Dougherty agrees to O’Donnell’s request in return for the money.
    Mary agreed to the plea deal because the state would’ve smoked her. Her conversations were recorded.
    So maybe she was influenced to commit a crime by Individual #1. Who knows?

    I just want to know who is that close to Mary, to ask for illegal election donations on her behalf?

    And wouldn’t you think that the Mayor would want to know who got his wife into this mess?

  4. I don’t really agree about term limits; “politician” is a trade like any other, and terminating a skilled employee just because they’ve been in the position for a while seems like the opposite of a good idea. It’s change for change’s sake alone, and it devalues the experience, talent, and relationships that come with time in the job. I think there’s probably an argument to be made for the fact that we term-limit presidents, but certainly at the local level I can’t see it as being anything but misguided, a symptom of a broader — incorrect — belief that politics is inherently corrupt and extended exposure to it corrupting. By all means, vote out politicians who’ve overstayed their welcome but don’t unconditionally force out dedicated people doing good work simply because some arbitrary timer has expired.

  5. check the campaign literature for the name of the joint campaign committee. “Paid for by Morristown First Democrats 2021

  6. The residents of Morristown, as far as I know, have not yet learned who were the donors to Dougherty’s campaign? The election is over, but residents still have a right to know….When will Tim tell us?…

  7. The mayor’s wife was absolutely NOT “convicted for accepting bribes”. She was not, in fact, convicted of _anything_. She plead guilty to failing to properly report a campaign contribution. The folks pushing this narrative seem to have a problem with facts, and a problem with the fact that those facts are entirely irrelevant to the performance of the mayor — who has not been accused of anything untoward except creating parks and getting crosswise with some litigious developers.

  8. The Mayors wife was convicted for accepting bribes and he cries “foul” over a smear campaign?? There are numerous lawsuits pending against the Mayor and the current administration, so again, calling this out is slanderous? If you think this last go around was tough, wait until Cresitello gets done with you. Facts hurt…

  9. Dougherty is not perfect, but he has done a lot of good things for this town. Clearly more people are in favor of the developments and parks, rather than the progressive actions Ms. Fields would have taken us in. Kudos to the Mayor for his win tonight!