Mayor Michael Gonnelli and four of the six council people are up for election in November. Gonnelli has already said he plans to run for re-election.
Secaucus does not always have candidates from the major parties running in its elections, but the township has, in the past, seen distinct Independent and Democratic parties. For a while, the Democrats reigned, but when Gonnelli was elected in 2009, he came from the Independents (many of whom vote Democratic nationally).
Candidates declaring themselves Democrats or Republicans would run in the state primaries on Tuesday, June 6.
According to Town Clerk Michael Marra, Gonnelli, along with 1st Ward Councilman Robert Costantino, 2nd Ward Councilman Mark Dehnert, 3rd Ward Councilman William McKeever, and 1st Ward Councilman John Gerbasio are running as Independents. (Gerbasio recently replaced Gary Jeffas when the latter left last year to become town administrator.)
Want to run? There’s a deadline
The Independents do not have to run in the June primaries, and can watch the field until the Nov. 7 general elections.
As Independents, they do not file any petitions or materials at the clerk’s office; they file at the county by the primary date of June 6. The deadline for Democrat and Republican challengers to file any nominating petitions for primary elections is this coming April 3.
“We’re not bound to anybody.” –Mayor Gonnelli
So far, no challengers to the mayor and council members have come forth, according to Jeffas. However, some local observers have wondered whether the Democrats will reorganize and run a candidate against Gonnelli.
Regarding why his group runs as Independents, “We feel it’s best,” Gonnelli said. “We’re not bound to anybody. We’re not pledging to anybody. We’re not doing anything out of the ordinary.”
Gonnelli said that “we get Democrats to support us, we get Republicans to support us.”
He believes that Independents have been better able to reach through party lines. “I ran twice. This’ll be a third time,” he said. “Robert has run twice. We’ve done nothing but positive things. Right now, though Gov. [Chris] Christie, we’ve gotten the money to redo the Coast Guard, we got the money to redo the [Meadowlands Parkway Bridge], we got the money to build the bike lane.”
Gonnelli also said that “we get so many things from the Democrats. So many items that you can’t believe how many items that we get done. We get a lot of grant money.”
Gonnelli made clear, however, that he’s not kissing up to the two parties for their help.
“I’m not saying we’re playing up to the Republicans or Democrats,” he said. “Any way we can get assistance from them, through grants, is something that’s certainly welcome here.”
History of Democrats
In 2009, former Mayor Dennis Elwell, a Secaucus Democrat, withdrew his reelection bid after an arrest that year on bribery charges. Replacement Richard Steffens served out the rest of Elwell’s term before deciding he would not seek election.
Elwell’s arrest severely damaged local Democrats, allowing Gonnelli and other Independent candidates to steamroll them in the November elections. Gonnelli had been supervisor of public works and was politically involved.
In 2010, state Assemblyman Vincent Prieto said he wanted to create a new slate of “candidates who are not perceived as having ties” to Elwell for the Town Council Primary, according to previous reporting in the Hudson Reporter. But the effort did not get far.
The Reporter will continue coverage throughout the election.