LINDEN, NJ — Incumbent Derek Armstead overcame being shunted off the endorsed Democratic line to capture the mayoral primary in Linden on Tuesday night, fending off Councilwomen Gretchen Hickey and Rhashonna Cosby in what was a nasty intraparty fight.
The lopsided win was a slap to state senator and newly elected Union County Democratic Party Chairman Nick Scutari, who knocked Armstead off the endorsed party line in favor of Hickey.
The move came following Armstead’s support for Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr over Scutari in the battle for the county chair in February. The post became available when longtime Assemblyman Jerry Green resigned due to health reasons. Green died of an undisclosed illness in April at the age of 79.
Armstead captured nearly 60 percent of the vote in Union County clerk provided unofficial results to Hickey’s 36 percent and Cosby’s 4 percent.
The Democratic primary is seen as tantamount to winning the general election in November since Democrats heavily outnumber Republicans in Linden. No Republicans ran in the primary for mayor nor for the available council seats.
The Linden race had accusations on all sides with the three candidates exchanging charges of campaign finance violations, ethics complaints and Armstead claiming Cosby had entered the race as a spoiler, seeking to take votes away from him.
In most municipalities, endorsed candidates ran without opposition. But a handful did face challenges.
Armstead was at least one of several local Democrats who overcame the party endorsement to win. Two-term Garwood Councilwoman Sara Todisco defeated incumbent and longtime party member Charles Lombardo to claim the Democratic nod for mayor in the 4,200-population borough.
Todisco garnered more than 72 percent of the vote to Lombardo’s 28 percent.
Todisco’s running mates, Michael Ince and Sean Benoit, also won despite being off-line candidates. They defeated the Democratic Party-preferred Jennyfer Guerrero and Vincent Kearney by more than a two-to-one margin.
Todisco will face fellow Councilwoman Ileen Cuccaro in November. Cuccaro won the Republican nomination uncontested.
In Roselle, Brandon Bernier beat incumbent Carla Walker, and John Fortuna did likewise to sitting council member Samuel Bishop, to capture the Democratic nominations for the town’s governing body.
Bernier won handily, 62-38, while Fortuna won by 37 votes, or 6 percent.
In Union, the endorsed line did aid incumbent township committee members Michele Delisfort and Manuel Figueiredo. They defeated Jason Krychiw and former school board member Ronnie McDowell. Krychiw ran as an independent the past two years while McDowell campaigned on keeping funding from political parties out of Union Board of Education elections when he ran for that post.
Delisfort, who was elected to the committee in 2016, and Figueiredo, who has been a committee member since 2009, accused Krychiw and McDowell of being “Democrats out of political convenience.”
Like Linden, Union has a heavy Democratic voter registration over Republicans.
Figueiredo topped all vote getters with 2,388 votes, or 31 percent, while Delisfort captured 2,335, or 30 percent.
Krychiw received 1,562 votes, or 20 percent, while McDowell received 1,504, or 19 percent.
On the Republican side, Berkeley Heights Mayor Robert Woodruff easily defeated challenger Edmund Maciejewski by 300 votes out of more than 1,500 cast. Woodruff won 61-39 percent.
Armstead’s momentum did not extend to his personally backed “Team Armstead” slate for county freeholders.
Incumbent Al Mirabella, along with fellow Democratic Party-endorsed choices Andrea Staten and Kimberly Mouded, easily defeated Armstead’s slate of Alex Lospinoso, Patrick Gargano and Kaiby Sandoval. Mirabella, Staten and Mouded each received 25 percent or more of the vote to Armstead’s team, none of which received more than 8 percent.
They will face off against Republicans Pat Quattrocchi, Joe Sarno and Peter Kane, but no GOP member has been elected to the Union County freeholder board since the last one left office in 1998.
Statewide, county voters backed the statewide choices of Robert Menendez over his Democratic challenger Lisa McCormick, and Bob Hugin over Brian Goldberg on the Republican side for the U.S. Senate.
Likewise, county Democrats picked Tom Malinowski over Peter Jacob and Goutam Jois by a wide margin to challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Leonard Lance for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Lance handily beat Lindsay Brown and Dr. Raafat Barsoom to seek a sixth term. Lance has held the seat since winning in 2008.
Democrats have targeted Lance as a potential flip in what they believe will be a “Blue Wave.”
However, despite redistricting over the past century, Republicans have held the seat all but for six years since 1914.