UNION COUNTY, NJ — Democrats appeared to claim a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in 37 years and took complete control of the Springfield council on an election night that had few surprises.
Tom Malinowski led five-term Republican incumbent Leonard Lance by a little fewer than 6,000 votes with more than 96 percent of the precincts reporting, giving the Democrats the 7th Congressional District for the first time since 1981 and only the second time since 1914.
The race for the seat, which includes all or parts of 13 Union County towns, from Berkeley Heights to Winfield Park, was one of the most watched in the country with more than $7 million raised by the two candidates, and Malinowski outspending Lance by a two-to-one margin.
Springfield became an all Democratic council with the election of Chris Weber and Alex Keiser. Weber and Keiser received 3,478 and 3,324 votes, respectively, to defeat incumbent Maria Vassallo and Jerry Fernandez with 2,448 and 2,513 votes, respectively.
Democrats also picked up a council seat in Summit with incumbent David Nadiu easily holding his 1st Ward spot over Republican John Dougherty, and Gregory Vartan defeating Louis Desocio for Mary Ogden’s 2nd Ward slot. Come January, Democrats will hold a 5-2 advantage as well as the mayor’s office.
In Roselle Park, incumbent Mayor Carl Hokanson, who won as a Democrat four years ago but switched to run as an independent when he didn’t get the endorsed line in the June primary, finished a distant third in a field of three.
Democrat Joseph Signorello easily won with 2,340 votes, receiving nearly twice as many as Republican councilman William Fahoury with 1,180, and nearly three times Hokanson’s 773.
The Democrats also picked up one seat on the council to narrow the Republican advantage to 4-2. Joseph Petrosky retained his 2nd Ward seat against Richard Graves 601-374, while fellow Democrat Robert Mathieu defeated incumbent Republican Thomas Shipley 513-312 for the 5th Ward seat.
In Mountainside, Robert Messler and Rachel Pater both held their seats to maintain the Republicans’ complete control of the borough council. They defeated Democrats Anjali Mehrotra and Iliana Montes, who tried to leverage the ongoing sexual harassment lawsuit by five male police officers and a part-time female clerk against the municipality.
Messler and Pater received 1,599 votes or more while Mehrotra and Montes did not get at least 1,400 out of more than 5,900 cast.
Clark also remained entirely in Republican hands with incumbents Frank Mazzarella, Patrick O’Connor, Steven Hund and Brian Toal all winning their respective wards with anywhere from 60 to 73 percent of the vote.
In Cranford, Democrat Mayor Tom Hannen easily retained his seat on the township committee, claiming nearly 61 percent of the vote against Richard Buontempo, who lost last year’s council race and was a replacement candidate for fellow Republican Michael Petrucci, who withdrew in August.
In Union, Michelle Delisfort and Manuel Figueiredo easily won re-election to the township council to keep it entirely in Democrat hands, beating Republican challengers Justin Versoza and Ken Slawson by a nearly three-to-one margin. Union’s balloting was marred by the breakdown of one voting machine at Union High School, according to poll worker Sally Smith, forcing the use of paper ballots while a replacement machine was sought.
At the county level, Democrats extended their 20-year streak of holding every seat on the Board of Chosen Freeholders with Al Mirabella, Andrea Staten and Kimberly Mouded defeating Republicans Pat Quattrocchi, Joe Sarno and Peter Kane by a more than two-to-one margin.
Additionally Democrat Rebecca Williams easily defeated Republican Peter Lijoi to complete the term of Linda Carter on the freeholder board. Williams was appointed as a replacement for Carter after Carter was given Jerry Green’s seat in the state Assembly from the 22nd Legislative District following his death office.
Carter dominated John Quattrocchi, Pat Quattrocchi’s husband, to complete Green’s term.
Besides the 7th Congressional District, the other House races involving Union County went as expected.
Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman easily won a third term in the 12th Congressional District, which includes Fanwood, Plainfield and parts of Scotch Plains. Watson Coleman received more than 66 percent of nearly 23,000 votes cast in the race against Republican Daryl Kipnis.
It was even easier for Democrat Donald Payne Jr., who took over from his father, Donald Payne Sr., in winning a fourth term in the 10th Congressional District, which includes Hillside, Linden, Rahway, Roselle, Roselle Park and parts of Union. Payne received more than 85 percent of the vote against Republican Agha Khan.
Likewise, Democrat Albio Sires won a fourth term in the 8th, which encompasses Elizabeth, against Republican John Muniz. Sires received more than 75 percent of the vote.