UNION COUNTY – In most parts of Union County, local Democrats were able to take advantage of President-elect Barack Obama’s momentum to win easy victories.
Rahway Democrats swept all six city council seats on the ballot Tuesday, giving the party total control over the nine-member legislative body.
Michael Cox defeated Kenneth Lund for the Second Ward seat now held by Francis Janusz, the council’s lone Republican. Janusz opted not to run for re-election and allegedly moved out of state in 2006.
Democrats Bobby Akbar, Jerome Scaturo, David Brown, Jennifer Wenson Maier and Samson Steinman also won their races in Rahway’s First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth wards, respectively.
The victory for Rahway Democrats likely means that Mayor James Kennedy’s continued redevelopment plans for the city should face little opposition. The Election Day victory “means more good things for Rahway,” according to the mayor.
Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage rode the tide of Democratic success to an easy victory over his Republican challenger Albert Martin. Though October was a bad month for the city, with three recorded homicides, Bollwage captured more than 17,000 votes – 75% of the total.
Democrats Edward Jackus, Patricia Perkins-Auguste and Frank Cuesta were unchallenged in bids to retain their seats on Elizabeth’s City Council.
In Linden, Democrats swept the four council races on this year’s ballot. The results are a reversal from recent elections, where independent Mayor Richard Gerbounka had made inroads against the city’s Democratic Party machine.
Bruce Howe, one of three independent council members, was defeated by Richard Puschel, 914-694, in the city’s 10th Ward. Last year, the two men faced off with different results for the final year of an unexpired term.
After his victory, Puschel said, “We’re going to improve the city, stop the downturn.”
Gerbounka acknowledged that the defeats were disappointing, but said the independents were not going to go away. “People have their choice,” the mayor said. “We’ll be back.”
Democrats Derek Armstead, Robert Sadowski and Michele Yamakaitis were re-elected to represent the city’s Fourth, Sixth and Eighth wards, respectively.
The three incumbent Union County Freeholders on this year’s ballot – Angel Estrada, Rick Proctor and Nancy Ward – easily defeated their GOP opponents to maintain the Democrats’ total control of the county’s governing body.
There were a few bright spots for Union County Republicans. Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso defeated Democratic challenger Gary Slodowski by more than 1,400 votes to win his third term as the township’s chief executive. Three Republican council members – Alvin Barr, Sheila Whiting and Angel Albanese – defeated their Democratic opponents by a similar, though slightly smaller, margin to retain total GOP control of the seven-member legislative body.
In Kenilworth, Republicans swept three council seats from their Democratic opponents. In January, the GOP will have total control of the six-member body. Just two years ago, Kenilworth Democrats had complete control.
There are 299,762 registered voters in Union County, and 209,380 of them cast ballots at polling locations on Election Day. The county’s 69.85 percent turnout rate will increase as absentee and provisional ballots are counted.
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