Vas era comes to an end in Perth Amboy
PERTH AMBOY – Political newcomer Wilda Diaz won a stunning victory Tuesday, defeating 18-year incumbent Mayor Joseph Vas by more than 1,000 votes.
Diaz called her victory “incredible.” “The people wanted a change in town,” said Diaz. “People know me. People trust me and I know I will work with them.”
Diaz’s slate of City Council candidates, Fernando Gonzalez and Kenneth Balut, also won. They defeated Councilman David Szilagyi and Joel Pabon, who were running with Vas, and Maria Garcia, who ran independently.
Vas said that he was disappointed by his defeat, but respected that the voters wanted change. “I’m proud of my 18 years as mayor,” he said. “I have absolutely no regrets.”
Diaz, a former vice president of Banco Popular in Elizabeth, said that stabilizing taxes will be the biggest challenge facing her administration. Residents saw steep tax increases in 2006 and 2007, which was likely a factor in Vas’ defeat.
“I don’t know whether [the voters] lost faith in us,” said Szilagyi. “We obviously came in with no tax increase this year or next year. Maybe the previous tax increases shattered their faith.”
Vas was initially challenged by two opponents – Diaz and Israel Varela, a local businessman and former City Council candidate. Varela dropped out of the race last month, fearing that his campaign would split the vote and lead to a win for Vas.
According to unofficial vote totals, Diaz won 4,256 votes – 58 percent – while Vas took 3,061. Tallies for the council candidates were: Gonzalez 3,429; Balut 3,347; Pabon 3,049; Szilagyi 2,744; and Garcia 776.