LINDEN — City Councilman Derek Armstead coasted to an easy victory over Waliyy Dixon, a one-time high school basketball star whose lights faded in the glare of a political campaign against the city’s strongest Democrat.
Armstead trounced Dixon by more than two-to-one in light turnout, with the Ward 4 incumbent scoring 568 votes over the challenger’s 241 ballots.
Three other 3-year terms on the governing body were decided in voting Tuesday, but the Armstead’s vote exceeded total turnout in two of those wards.
Ward 6 Councilman Robert Sadowski prevailed in a rematch over independent challenger Diane A. Wilverding, with 270 over 195 votes. In 2008, Sadowski got 537 to fend off Wilverding, who received 452 votes.
City Councilwoman Michele Yamakaitis scored a blistering 481 votes over independent Dulce Lopes, who received only 79 votes.
Councilman Richard Puschel was elected in 2008 with 960 ballots over independent Bruce M. Howe’s tally of 731, but without Barack Obama’s long coattails, the Democratic incumbent trailed challenger Adam Kuczynski by a fairly distant 389 to 558.
Armstead’s overwhelming defeat of the star-quality challenger is more impressive when one considers that freshman Councilman Peter A. Brown, Jr. heavily invested political capital in Dixon’s effort.
The drubbing of his proxy should have an impact, since Brown’s malice toward the elder statesman appears misplaced and over-the top considering the history of the two men.
Armstead carried Brown to victory, when the disorganized tenderfoot made his first bid for municipal office in last year’s primary and general election contests. Brown barely squeaked a ten vote win past establishment Democratic Organization backed-Jorge Alvarez in the primary, with a slogan hijacked from Armstead’s more progressive Democrats for Change organization.
In November, Brown was elected with only 49 percent of the 932 votes cast because almost 60 voters failed to register their choices properly or lacked interest in the contest, while Armstead’s mayoral campaign tore through the ward with sizable pluralities.
Former Councilman Joe Harvanik has been said to have engaged in discussions with area residents that could lead to a recall effort, an attempt to let voters fire the relentlessly combative Brown.
Brown — a tax advocate who called for city staff reductions and voted to approve fire department layoffs — will be facing tough odds in a recall unless he can men fences and win Armstead’s guidance.
By contrast, Armstead was elected by a two-to-one margin in 1994 and he has had a strong record of success on the council until party bosses decided to quiet the neighborhood representative demanding fair job opportunities by forcing him out of office in 2008. Armstead spoiled those plans by mounting an aggressive grassroots campaign to win re-nomination in a landslide, earning him the exclusive right to a spot on the November allied with Barack Obama, the Democrat for President.
He then catapulted his way through the 2020 primary, were he was nominated for mayor, a post that eluded him by only 161 votes in a race with 10,077 voters turning out at the polls.
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