Dale wins re-election

WEST MILFORD. Michael Chazukow and David Marsden are re-elected to the Township Council.

| 08 Nov 2023 | 03:30

West Milford Mayor Michele Dale won re-election Tuesday, Nov. 7 with close to 70 percent of the votes, according to unofficial results from the Passaic County Clerk’s Office.

Dale, a Republican seeking a second term, received 4,121 votes compared with 1,818 for Democrat Melissa Brown Blaeuer.

The mayor’s term is for four years.

No comment from Dale on the election results was provided by press time.

Republican incumbents David Marsden and Michael Chazukow were re-elected to the Township Council.

Marsden received 3,816 votes and Chazukow had 3,810 while Democrats Karen Phelan and Mary Granata had 2,045 and 2,017, respectively.

The council terms are for three years. All six members of the council are Republicans.

Marsden and Chazukow were unopposed when they ran three years ago.

While gathered Tuesday night to wait for the election results, the Democratic candidates said they plan to continue to pursue a change in West Milford’s election process.

“West Milford needs a non-partisan ward-based government to get more people involved with better representation,” Blaeuer said. This way local government can focus on actual problem-solving and local issues and get people to work together like we do at work and every other aspect of our lives.

”We ran on local issues and did that deliberately. If we got back to non-partisan ward-based approach, people would feel empowered.”

Granata, who lives in Oak Ridge, said that section of West Milford often is ignored by township officials.

Blaeuer said her goal is to put a referendum on the ballot asking voters to adopt a ward form of government. The first step will be to form a committee to research and determine what the referendum would say.

Board of Education

In races for three seats on the Board of Education, incumbent Lynda Van Dyk was trailing Miranda Jurgensen, Stephanie Marquard and Joseph Werner, according to the unofficial results.

Jurgensen received 3,108 votes, Marquard had 2,841, Werner had 2,817 and Van Dyk had 2,797.

State Legislature

Sen. Anthony Bucco, a Republican, won re-election with nearly 54 percent of the votes in Legislative District 25, which includes West Milford.

The Associated Press called the race with about 99 percent of the votes counted.

Christine Clarke, a Democrat, had 46 percent of the total.

Assembly members Aura Dunn and Christian Barranco, both Republicans, also will return to the Legislature, according to the Associated Press.

Dunn won 25,688 votes and Barranco had 25,000 compared with 22,520 for Diane Salvatore and 22,156 for Jon Torres, both Democrats.

Passaic County

Democrats Bruce James and Orlando Cruz appeared to hold on to their seats on the Board of County Commissioners, according to the unofficial results.

Democrats have a 6-1 majority on the board.

James had 32,106 votes and Cruz had 31,635 followed by Republicans Kelley Amico and Andrena Pegel with 31,155 and 30,535, respectively. Pegel is a former West Milford councilwoman.

County Clerk Danielle Ireland-Imhof, a Democrat, won re-election with 33,120 votes compared with 30,028 for Republican Rosemary Pino.

Results statewide

Statewide, Democrats picked up a net five seats in the Assembly, nearly erasing the GOP pickup of two years ago and dashing the Republicans’ hopes of winning a majority for the first time in two decades.

Democrats Heather Simmons and Dave Bailey defeated Republican incumbents Bethanne McCarthy Patrick and Thomas Tedesco in southern New Jersey’s 3rd District.

That coupled with wins in Jersey shore District 11 and a seemingly improbable win in the right-leaning Ocean County District 30 will give the Democrats at least 51 seats in the 80-member Assembly, up from 46.

The Democratic surge came in the sixth year of Gov. Phil Murphy’s tenure, with two years left until he’s term-limited, and as the party kept their 25-15 majority in the state Senate, Democrats will retain control of all levers of state government.

Democratic enthusiasm poured out of campaign headquarters Tuesday night as their victories became apparent.

Perhaps the most emotion came from former Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney, whose friend and former running mate John Burzichelli defeated Republican state Sen. Ed Durr.

Durr unseated Sweeney two years ago, a shock to the powerful legislative leader.

“It feels like a wrong has now been righted,” Sweeney said.

Democrats had a good night in Senate contests overall, defending fiercely contested races, although they’ll keep their 25-15 majority because of a Republican defection to the Democratic Party that reverted to the GOP on Tuesday.

Republicans find themselves examining how to go forward after legislative losses. A key question for them is how to build GOP enthusiasm for early voting. Mail ballots go out in September and in-person voting starts late October - both formats in which Democrats participate in greater numbers.

“We lost significant ground in legislative races. What can we do to get more New Jerseyans to recognize the importance of getting out to vote?” Republican state party chairman Bob Hugin said.

Two years ago, Murphy won re-election by a single-digit margin, and Republicans netted seven seats in the Legislature. They had hoped that running on the unpopularity of offshore wind turbines and claims that Democrats wanted schools to keep their children’s sexual orientation confidential would rouse voters to the polls.

Such a GOP-leaning rush didn’t materialize.

Republicans face significant structural deficits in New Jersey, namely that they’re outnumbered by nearly a million more Democratic voters. Democrats also outspent Republicans $22 million to $8.5 million.

It is unclear what Democrats will do with their expanded majority. They campaigned on protecting reproductive rights - though New Jersey already has statutory protections for abortion.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, using similar language to a pair of property tax rebate initiatives, hinted Democrats could pursue further programs.

“We will continue to stand up for every New Jerseyan, make our state more affordable, and do the hard work of all nine million residents in our state,” he said in a statement.

Murphy called the Democratic wins “validation” for their agenda.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.