UNION COUNTY – State Sen. Ray Lesniak commanded a huge lead over Citibank Vice President Donna Obe, the Roselle school board president who challenged him in the 20th District Democratic primary.
Lesniak defeated the challenger, who relied on the political muscle of Rafael Fajardo, the former Elizabeth Board of Education president whose talent for losing seems to defy almost all limits.
Three years ago, Fajardo’s allies nearly scored a major victory over the regular political organization as the race ended in a near miss for Sheriff Ralph Froehlich, who came within 1,370 votes of losing to Charles Mitchell of Roselle. While Froehlich racked up nearly 16,000 ballots Tuesday — compared with 13,250 three years ago — Mitchell went from scoring more than 12,000 votes in 2010 to finishing south of 6,000 in this election.
A 2011 strategy devised for Fajardo ally Jerome Dunn to challenge Lesniak fell just 800 votes short of ending the lawmaker’s tenure. Both misses resulted from blunders have been attributed to Fajardo, who observers say could not resist driving each campaign off a cliff as they entered the final weeks.
Fajardo effectively dismissed the successful consulting team that nearly brought him his first victories in partisan elections and finished the 2012 Elizabeth mayoral race with his candidate, Oscar Ocasio, losing by a margin of four to one. His proxy suffered a defeat of two to one against Lesniak this time, even with the Senator’s vote total, estimated at 9,281, remaining just about 14 percent ahead of its 2011 level of 8,124.
“When all was said and done, there was a lot more said than done in the latest battle in a long, bitter war as Ray Lesniak cruised to victory over Donna Obe by a margin of about two to one,” said political pundit Nick Acocella of Politifax.
Unofficial election results from the Union County Clerk’s Office appear below
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