Election season roars to life in Union County

UNION COUNTY, NJ — With Election Day less than a week away, the entire state is looking toward the midterm election. In Union County, it is the county clerk’s office that is involved in much of the preparatory work, and a key element is security.

“We do coordinate with the municipal clerks who are responsible for security on Election Day,” said Nicole DiRado, administrator of the Union County Board of Elections, in an interview with Union County LocalSource on Monday, Oct. 31. “We have not received any indication of any threats on Election Day. Our office monitors the cybersecurity and homeland security chatrooms, to see if there’s anything going on statewide that we should be aware of. Early voting has been going very smoothly, and there have been no threats to our voting sites. So we are having a really good election time.”

In order to ensure that voters are given as much freedom as possible, police officers provide them with a wide berth when it’s time to vote, although they are there if there are any dangers.

“State law prohibits law enforcement from being within 100 feet of a polling place, unless there’s a threat,” said DiRado. “Fortunately, New Jersey is not seeing the threats to election officials and voters that other states are seeing.”

One of the concerns in recent years has been online security, and DiRado was quick to point out that Union County had that covered.
“Everything’s going really well. In terms of cybersecurity, we are safe,” she said. “In Union County, our voting machines have never been connected to the internet and have never been hacked. We work very closely with (the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell) and with the cybersecurity arm of the Department of Homeland Security. We have developed stringent protocols, in terms of cybersecurity, to ensure that our electronic poll books are safe during voting.”

Although the COVID-19 pandemic is still very present, the number of voters coming out to the polls has continued to increase.
“We had a great turnout on Day 1,” said DiRado, discussing early voting. “It exceeded our three days in the primary, which is great. Today, so far, our total turnout since Saturday is 3,297 (votes). Our turnout in the last general election was just over 10,000 total. The turnout for the weekend was 2,989.”

Despite these numbers, DiRado admitted that people have a long way to go regarding embracing early voting.

“In Union County, early voting is just not part of our culture yet,” DiRado said. “It hasn’t penetrated the community yet. People who go to early voting are just so happy when they get to go to early voting.”

Of course, there are other options, such as mail-in ballots.
“In Union County, we have 24 drop boxes, and they are watched by cameras 24/7.

“If you are going to put it in the mail, make sure it’s postmarked on or before Election Day,” she continued. “Or you can return it in person to our office by 8 p.m on Election Day in Elizabeth.”

It can still take some time to add up all the votes, admitted DiRado. Gone are the days when people could know the results before they went to bed. She explained why this is so.

“On election night, you’ll have all the tallies for the votes by mail, the early results and the machine results,” she said. “Not only do the poll workers have to shut down the machines, they have to shut down the electronic poll books. The majority of the provisional ballots that are issued on Election Day are issued to people who were issued vote-by-mail ballots, so we can’t process those ballots until the seventh day (after the polls have closed). Now that we have the signature cure law, put into place in 2020, they can cure their signature up until two days before certification, Nov. 19. Certification this year is Nov. 21 on the county level. Election night is not what it used to be.”

DiRado stressed how important every vote is, especially on the local level.

“A local race or a ward race, it can be won by just a few ballots,” she said. “As of today, 47,397 ballots have been issued and 20,620 ballots have been received, so we’re at 43 percent.

“Come out and vote,” said DiRado. “Voters should take a look at their sample ballot. We had the congressional lines redrawn this year. Voters need to be mindful of where they should be voting and who their candidates are.”

For the U.S. House of Representatives’ 7th Congressional District, incumbent Democrat Tom Malinowski is running against Republican challenger Thomas H. Kean Jr. for a two-year term. This district includes parts of Essex, Morris, Somerset, Union and Warren counties, and all of Hunterdon County. In Union County, this includes Berkeley Heights, Clark, Cranford, Garwood, Kenilworth, Mountainside, New Providence, part of Scotch Plains, Springfield, Summit, part of Union, Westfield and Winfield.

For the U.S. House’s 8th Congressional District, incumbent Democrat Albio Sires is retiring at the end of this term. Democrat Robert J. Menendez; Republican Marcos Arroyo; Pablo Olivera of the Labor Party; Dan Delaney of the Libertarian Party; independent David W. Cook, whose slogan is “Vote Real Change”; Joanne Kuniansky of the Socialist Workers Party; and independent John V. Salierno, whose slogan is “Truth and Merit,” will vie for this two-year term. This district includes parts of Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Union County. In Union County, this includes only Elizabeth.

For the U.S. House’s 10th Congressional District, incumbent Democrat Donald M. Payne Jr. is running against challengers Republican David H. Pinckney; independent Cynthia A. Johnson, whose slogan is “Jobs and Justice”; Kendal Ludden of the Libertarian Party; and Clenard Howard Childress Jr. of the Mahali Party for a two-year term. This district includes parts of Essex, Hudson and Union counties. In Union County, this includes Hillside, Linden, Rahway, Roselle, Roselle Park and part of Union.

For the U.S. House’s 12th Congressional District, incumbent Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman is running against Republican Darius Mayfield and C. Lynn Genrich of the Libertarian Party for a two-year term. This district includes parts of Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset and Union counties. In Union County, this includes Fanwood, Plainfield and part of Scotch Plains.

The death of Union County Surrogate James LaCorte in December 2021, after he served in that role for more than 20 years, has left that seat vacant. Democrat Christopher Hudak and Republican Peter B. Lijoi are running to fill this five-year term.

There are three seats on the Union County Board of County Commissioners, each with a three-year term, available. The three incumbents, all Democrats — Bette Jane Kowalski,
Sergio Granados and Rebecca L. Williams — are running against three Republican challengers, Carmen Bucco, Vincent Rettino and Carlos Santos.

Berkeley Heights

Incumbent Democrat Angie Devanney is running against Republican Jeffrey Varnerin for a four-year term as mayor. For the two three-year-term council seats that are open, Democrats Susan Poage and Diomedes Tsitouras will be squaring off against Republicans incumbent Manuel Couto and Michelle Bartiromo. Republican incumbent Gentiana Brahimaj withdrew from the race.


Four ward seats are up on Clark Town Council. Republican incumbents Frank G. Mazzarrella, 1st Ward; Patrick O’Connor, 2nd Ward; Steven M. Hund, 3rd Ward; and Brian P. Toal, 4th Ward, are being challenged by Democrats Dario R. Valdivia, 1st Ward; Michael Shulman, 2nd Ward; William S. Grzyb Jr., 3rd Ward; and David Hessler, 4th Ward, as well as independent Anatasio Tom Anastasatos, 3rd Ward, for a four-year term in each of the wards.


Residents will have to select two of the following five candidates for a three-year term on the Cranford Committee: incumbent Kathleen Miller Prunty and challenger Terrence Curran, both Democrats; incumbent Mary O’Connor and challenger Chrissa L. Stulpin, both Republicans; and independent challenger William Thilly.


Six ward seats are open, each with a four-year term. Only the 1st Ward is contested, with incumbent Democrat Carlos L. Torres running against independent Vincent F. DePasquale, whose slogan is “People 1st.” Incumbent Democrats Nelson Gonzalez, 2nd Ward; Kevin Kiniery, 3rd Ward; Carlos Cedeno, 4th Ward; William Gallman Jr., 5th Ward; and Frank O. Mazza, 6th Ward, are all running unopposed.


Democrats incumbent Katherine Mitchell and challenger Gina Berry are running unopposed for two three-year council seats.


Mayor Sara Todisco’s term ends Dec. 31, leaving Democrat Jennifer Blumenstock, whose term as council president is also ending, to run for mayor against Republican challenger Kimberly Salmon for the four-year term. Democratic incumbent Marc Lazarow and Democratic challenger Clarissa Nolde are running against Republican challengers Stephen Napolitano and Brenda Caffrey for the two open seats with three-year terms on the Borough Council.


There are no local races.


Democratic incumbents Kay Anne Ceceri and Mark David are not running for reelection, leaving Democratic challengers Louis DeMondo and Toni Giordano Picerno to run against Republican challengers William Mauro and Savino Scorese for the two open seats, each for three-year terms.


Democratic incumbent mayor Derek Armstead is running for reelection to a four-year term against Republican challenger Russell J. Jones. Democrat Michele Yamakaitis is running unopposed for reelection to a four-year term as council president. Democratic incumbents Barry E. Javick, 2nd Ward; Monique Caldwell, 3rd Ward; and Ralph Strano, 7th Ward, are running for reelection to three-year terms unopposed in their respective wards, and newcomer Democrat Carlos A. Rivas is running unopposed for a three-year term in the 5th Ward. Democrat Christine Hudak is running unopposed in the 10th Ward to finish the final year of a seat to which she was appointed in June, following the resignation of Gretchen M. Hickey.


Republican incumbents René Dierkes and Donna Pacifico are running for reelection to another three-year term on council against Democratic challengers Philip Kandl and Himansu H. Patel.

New Providence

Republican incumbent Allen Morgan is running against Democratic challenger Harry Clewell for a four-year term as mayor. Republican Robert Muñoz is not running for reelection to Borough Council, leaving Republican incumbent Diane Bilicska and Republican challenger Alexander Kogan running against Democratic incumbents Rupa Kale and Tommy DeCataldo for the two seats, each with three-year terms.


Democrats Ashley Davis, 1st Ward council member, and Joylette Mills-Ransome, at large 2nd and 3rd Ward council member, are not running for reelection, leaving Democratic challengers Robert K. Graham and Richard Wyatt to run unopposed for the respective positions, each for four-year terms.


Democratic Mayor Raymond Giacobbe Jr. is running for reelection to another four-year term unopposed. Democratic incumbents Jeffrey Brooks, Joanna Miles and Jeremy Mojica are running against Republican challengers Patrick J. Cassio and David Sypher for three at-large seats with four-year terms. Democratic 1st Ward Councilman Rodney Farrar resigned in September, and Republican Alexander F. Parker is running unopposed to finish his unexpired term.


Democrats Denise Wilkerson, at large council member, and Cindy M. Thomas, 4th Ward council member, are both running for reelection to three-year terms unopposed.

Roselle Park

Democratic incumbent Joseph Signorello III is running for another four-year term as mayor against Republican challenger Mariann Brenner. Republican incumbent Jodi P. Bellomo, 3rd Ward council member, is running for another three-year term against Democratic challenger Rosanna Lyons. Michael Connelly is not running for another term as 4th Ward council member, so challengers Democrat Marc Fernandez and Republican Khanjan Patel are vying for the three-year term.

Scotch Plains

Democratic incumbents Elizabeth Stamler, Roshan White and Matt Adams are running for reelection to another four-year term on the Scotch Plains Township Council against Republican challengers Brian Johdos, Keith DeMatteo and Donald Stanzione.


Democratic incumbents Richard Huber and Erica DuBois are running for the two three-year terms open on the Township Committee against Republican challengers Joan Karpf and Marc R. Hinkes.


Democratic incumbent Danny O’Sullivan, 1st Ward, is running for reelection to another three-year term against Republican challenger Delia Hamlet. Republican Lisa K. Allen, 2nd Ward, is running unchallenged for a three-year term after she was elected to complete an unexpired term.


Township Committee member and Democrat Clifton People Jr. is not running for reelection, leaving Democratic incumbent Suzette Cavadas and Democratic challenger James Bowser Jr. to run against Republican challengers David J. Fitzpatrick and Charles T. Donnelly for the two seats with three-year terms.


Democratic incumbent Emily Root, who was appointed as the 1st Ward councilwoman in April, when James Boyes resigned, will run against Republican challenger Amanda M. Como to complete the one-year unexpired term.


Republican incumbent and current Mayor Robert F. Reilly is running unopposed for a seat with a three-year term on the Township Committee.

Early voting in Union County:

• Cranford: Union College, 1033 Springfield Ave., Nomahegan Building, Room N4, with parking in Lot 1.

• Elizabeth: Sampson Center, 800 Anna St.

• New Providence: DeCorso Community Center, 15 E. Fourth St.

• Plainfield: Union College Plainfield campus, Church Street, between East Second and East Third streets.

• Rahway: Rahway Recreation Center, 275 E. Milton Ave., Room 112.

• Roselle: Amalfe Community Center, 1268 Shaffer Ave.

• Union: Union Township Senior Center, 652 Rahway Ave.
General election early voting dates are Thursday, Nov. 3, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 4, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 5, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 6, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Secure ballot drop boxes are located in the following locations:

• Berkeley Heights: Snyder Avenue Park, 240 Snyder Ave.

• Clark: Clark Recreation Center, 430 Westfield Ave.

• Cranford: Cranford Community Center, 220 Walnut Ave., and Union College, Richel Commons Courtyard, Springfield Avenue.

• Elizabeth: Union County Administration Building Complex, corner of Elizabethtown Plaza and Rahway Avenue, and Union County Board of Elections, 271 N. Broad St.

• Fanwood: Fanwood historic train station, 230 North Ave.

• Garwood: Garwood Public Library, 411 Third Ave.

• Hillside: Hillside Senior Center, 265 Hollywood Ave.

• Kenilworth: Kenilworth Recreation Building, 575 Boulevard.

• Linden: Raymond Wood Bauer Promenade, 400 N. Wood Ave.

• Mountainside: Mountainside Library, 1 Constitution Plaza.

• New Providence: New Providence Library, 377 Elkwood Ave.

• Plainfield: Plainfield City Hall, 515 Watchung Ave.

• Rahway: Rahway Recreation Center, 275 E. Milton Ave.

• Roselle: Roselle Borough Hall, 210 Chestnut St.

• Roselle Park: Union County Emergency Services Building, 535 Laurel Ave.

• Scotch Plains: Scotch Plains Library, 1927 Bartle Ave.

• Springfield: Chisholm Recreation Center, 100 S. Springfield Ave.

• Summit: Chestnut Street parking lot adjacent to the Summit Fire Department, 406 Broad St. at Morris Avenue.

• Union: Union Township Municipal Building, 1976 Morris Ave., rear entrance, and Kean University, Wilkins Theatre, 1000 Morris Ave.

• Westfield: Fraser Building, 300 North Ave. E.

• Winfield: Winfield Mutual Housing Corp., Wavecrest Avenue.