Unopposed, then opposed, all in the same day DelleDonna's ticket wins Democratic nomination, then independent 'fusion' ticket files for November election
by Jim Hague Reporter staff writer
Jun 06, 2003 | 393 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Winning a municipal Democratic nomination in June generally means winning the general election as well in November, but in Guttenberg, you can never really take anything for granted.

So that's why incumbent Mayor David DelleDonna wasn't totally overjoyed by the primary election results last Tuesday, which saw him collect 547 votes out of a reported total of approximately 4,500 registered voters.

Deep in his heart, DelleDonna knew his detractors were out there, plotting some sort of attack. DelleDonna and his ticket of Town Council candidates might not have had opposition for the primary, but another thing was certainly planned for November.

Soon after the results were announced Tuesday, a ticket of candidates filed petitions to run in the general election in November, with a very familiar name heading the independent ticket.

Thomas Rizzi, a 54-year-old business administrator in the Newark school system, a staunch opponent of DelleDonna in the last three municipal elections, is heading a "fusion" ticket featuring both registered Democrats and Republicans, which will take on the incumbent group in November.

Rizzi has sought public office four times and lost all four, but that does not deter him from taking another run at the current administration.

"I'm not the first politician to lose a few times and come back," Rizzi said. "Abraham Lincoln lost nine times before he won. I'm trying to catch up to Mr. DelleDonna, who lost around seven times."

DelleDonna said that he actually lost "four or five times" before first gaining office as a councilman in 1999, then becoming the mayor two years ago, defeating Rizzi in a close vote by about 150 votes.

"I'm not at all surprised that they've filed," DelleDonna said. "I was expecting it. They've tried everything under the sun to get to us."

Rizzi said that he believes the diversity of the ticket, which features fellow Democrat Louis Lopez as well as registered Republicans Bill Scoullos and Johanna Delgado, will be an important factor in the general election.

"We're affording a lot more people the opportunity to cross over party lines and vote for the candidates of their choice," Rizzi said. "This way, we'll involve more people in the election. I've been getting a lot of encouragement from around the town, a lot of positive vibes. We have 4,500 registered voters and only 500 showed up for the primary. I think it shows that there are a lot of unhappy campers out there. People point to the current leadership, saying that they intend to do a lot, go to a certain distance and then do no more."

DelleDonna believes that the poor turnout (about 12 percent of the voters) stems from an unopposed primary. There was no other Democratic ticket facing DelleDonna, incumbents Javier Inclan, Gerald Drasheff and newcomer Adela Martinez, all of whom gained nominations with wins Tuesday. All four candidates received roughly the same total, with DelleDonna's 547 being the most.

"There was no opposition, so people really didn't care," DelleDonna said. "We went out and asked people to come to vote, but no one seemed interested if there was no one running against us. Tom needs to feel that to justify getting their ticket up for election."

DelleDonna also questioned the actual number of registered voters in the town.

"That 4,500 number is really untrue," DelleDonna said. "It's more like 3,200. I know there are names still on that list that have been deceased since 1990. If Mr. Rizzi feels that the primary turnout was a lack of support, he can dream on. The truth is that these people are not Democrats, nor Republicans. They're Republicrats. They want to appeal to both sides? Mr. Rizzi has been supporting the Republican side in the last few elections. That's showing his true colors."

Diverse ticket

Rizzi said that he believes he has a good ticket, with Scoullos, a current member of the Board of Education, along with Lopez and Delgado, people with strong business backgrounds.

"I think there are a lot of people upset with the current administration," Rizzi said. "Taxes have gone up. We pay the highest rate to the [North Bergen] MUA [Municipal Utilities Authority, which handles the town's sewage]. We have no answers, and no one is asking questions. All I'm asking for is a chance to prove myself, to show what I can do."

Supporter Mario Falato, who ran with Rizzi last year, but declined another attempt at office due to health issues, agreed.

"I'm more confident with this ticket than any other," Falato said. "I think they stand an excellent chance of winning. We're not looking as Democrats or Republicans, just good people that can run this town properly. It's going to take 100 percent effort, but I think it can get done."

DelleDonna thinks otherwise.

"Where's the groundswell of support they're supposed to have?" DelleDonna asked. "I keep seeing the same old tired candidates. Well, if he thinks he has support, I think he'll find out differently in November."
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