Democratic Councilman Derek Armstead defeated Linden Mayor Richard Gerbounka, the independent incumbent who was seeking a third term in office.
Armstead, who was stopped by Gerbounka four years ago by a 140 vote margin of victory, was able to clear the hurdle in their second match by nearly 400 votes according to City Clerk Joseph Bodek.
Observers noted that Armstead won election as mayor without clear and agressive upport from the local Democratic Party organization.
Armstead was the anti-establishment victor in three contested primary elections starting when he defended his Fourth Ward council seat against an organization challenge in 2008.
Denied support for re-election in a surprise move initiated by former Mayor John Gregorio, Armstead claimed 63 percent of the vote over challenger Monty Brooks in the 2008 Fourth Ward City Council primary.
The Linden basketball coach and a social worker employed by the city’s public school district, Brooks will take Armstead’s seat on the council in January because he beat Charlette Richardson in the June Democratic primary.
Robert F. Bunk, who was council president at the time, received 1,761 votes to Derek Armstead’s 2,031 in the 2010 primary for mayor. The upset of a candidate favored by political insiders stunned many of them, who held back on their support for Armstead in his challenge to Gerbounka.
Consequently, Gerbounka was able to eke out a second narrow victory after deposing Gregorio in 2006 by a scant 84-vote margin while former Councilman James Moore was elected Council President running alongside Armstead.
Armstead and Moore launched the Column B Democrats for Change slate, which included Peter Brown in the Third Ward, Rhashonna Cosby-Hurling in the Fifth Ward and Councilman John Sheehy in the Seventh Ward.
Armstead coasted to an easy 2011 victory over Waliyy Dixon, a one-time high school basketball star whose lights faded in the glare of a political campaign against the city council’s Ward 4 Democratic incumbent .
Armstead trounced Dixon, who ran as an independent, by more than two-to-one in light turnout on November 8, 2011, scoring 568 votes over the challenger’s 241 ballots.
Although Cosby-Hurling and Seventh Ward Democratic Committee member Michael Puzio also competed for the mayoral nomination in the June Democratic primary election, Armstead won a second dramatic victory.
Unlike 2010, Armstead’s coattails did not extend far in this year’s primary. Armstead’s unsuccessful primary running mates this year were council president candidate, Richard Puschel, along with Richardson in the 4th Ward and Wesley Silva in the 6th Ward.
Jorge Alvarez, a Board of Education member was the successful council president candidate, 8th Ward Councilwoman Michele Yamakaitis and 6th Ward Councilman Robert Sadowski were each re-elected, while Gretchen Hickey overcame both primary and general election challenges in the 10th Ward council race.
Armstead and Gerbounka worked together on the council since they were elected in 1993, and they have joined forces more than once since Gregorio was ousted, only to have many of their initiatives blocked by political insiders.
A stubborn 6-vote majority on the 11-member governing stopped accountability they sought to impose on city employees in the law department and prevented the replacement of politically-connected appointees.
As a Democrat, despite a period of intra-party wars, Armstead hopes to break the gridlock that has plagued Gerbounka.
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