STATE – Republican Gov. Chris Christie crushed Democrat Barbara Buono in the gubernatorial race, with the Associated Press calling the race moments after the polls closed at 8 p.m. However, Christie’s coattails were not long enough to give Republicans control of either house in the Legislature.
Christie won by a 60%-39% margin, leading some to believe the Republican governor’s success in a traditionally Democratic state will serve as a launching board for a Presidential campaign in 2016.
“We said people were tired of politics as usual,” Christie said in his victory speech. “We wanted to get things done and we promised we were gonna go to Trenton and turn it upside down and I think we’ve done just that.”
Buono made her concession speech shortly before 9 p.m., saying of Christie, “I know we have our differences, but when it comes down to it, we’re just two parents who want to see the best for our children’s future.”
Voters approved a constitutional amendment to raise the state’s minimum wage by $1 per hour, with future automatic increases indexed to the cost of living. A measure to allow veterans groups to use proceeds from existing games of chance to pay for operating also passed by an overwhelming margin.
There were no surprises in the Legislative races for districts in Middlesex or Union counties.
In the most hotly-contested area race, Assemblyman Peter Barnes (D-Middlesex) succeeds Buono in her state Senate seat representing the 18th District, defeating Democrat-turned-Republican East Brunswick Mayor David Stahl, while Democrats Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan and Nancy Pinkin held off a challenge by Republicans Robert Bengivenga and Lisa Goldhamer.
In one of the closest Legislative races, state Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Bergen) held off Republican challenger Fernando Alonso by 1,589 votes, according to unofficial results in the 38th District contest, while the Assembly races are too close to call. Democrats Joseph Lagana and Assemblyman Timothy Eustace are in a virtual tie with Republicans Joseph Scarpa and Joan Fragala.
In Edison, Thomas Lankey beat two other Democrats running as independent candidates – including incumbent Antonia Ricigliano – in the township’s mayoral race. Lankey, who had the support of the party organization, received 8,021 votes to Ricigliano’s 5,497. Republican Gaetano Gaspari finished with 4,213, while Councilman Sudhanshu Prasad had 2,956, according to the unofficial tallies.
Hillside’s non-partisan mayoral election was too close to call, with just 318 votes separating first and third place before mail-in votes were counted. Councilwoman Angela Garretson has 1,603 votes, former councilman Jorge Batista has 1,343 and Mayor Joseph Menza has 1,285, according to the unofficial totals, but Menza believes he will be in second place once all the votes are counted. Because no candidate received 50 percent of the vote, the two top vote-getters will face off in a runoff election.
Westfield Mayor Andrew Skibitsky won a third term, defeating Democratic Councilman David Haas by nearly 1,000 votes, according to the unofficial count.
In Plainfield, Democrat Adrian Mapp won an easy victory after defeating incumbent Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs in the primary, receiving 70 percent of the votes cast.
Two of three incumbent Elizabeth school board members - Anthony Padlo and Stefano Calella – were defeated in their re-election bids by candidates supported by Union County power broker state Sen. Ray Lesniak - Stanley Neron and Jose Rodriguez. Incumbent Carlos Trujillo won re-election.
In Roselle, a slate of school board members backed by Mayor Jamel Holley – Reginald Atkins, Celeste Sitarski, Carla Walker – defeated their challengers. Naima Ricks, running with the incumbents, won election to a two-year unexpired term.
Three of four members of a school board slate supported by Linden Councilman Derek Armstead were elected Tuesday. Incumbents Lisa Ormon – Armstead’s sister – and Dawn Beviano were re-elected. Board member Susan Hudak was also re-elected, winning the third full-term seat. Alexander Alvarez defeated Jorge Alvarez for an unexpired term that was opened up when Jorge Alvarez resigned so his family members could be hired for Board of Education jobs.
Berkeley Heights voters approved a measure to “actively seek secession” from Union County by a better than two-to-one margin, according to unofficial results. Mayor Joseph Bruno and other local officials believe that Berkeley Heights taxpayers are asked to support a greater share of the county budget than they benefit from, and estimate becoming part of Morris County would lead to significant savings.
Dunellen voters rejected a ballot question that would have enabled the school district to hire two security officers, while Westfield voters approved a new bond referendum enabling the district to qualify for state debt service aid for some money borrowed for roof restoration on seven schools, superseding a referendum passed last year.
Democrats easily won county races for Sheriff and Freeholder in both Middlesex and Union counties.
In Union, Angel Salcedo, who ran under the Democrats for Change banner in the 2010 primary for township council, was one of three candidates elected to the school board on Tuesday. Joining him are Richard Galante and Lois Jackson.
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