The big winners in this year’s June primary elections were not even on the ballot.
Both Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop hunkered down in their respective campaign headquarters on Tuesday, watching the numbers come in for a nail-biter in the 31st Assembly District. The district covers Bayonne and Jersey City, and two seats were available to face Republican challengers in November.
To their delight, the Democratic primary was a blowout for their side. Both mayors supported Democrats Angela McKnight and Nicholas Chiaravalloti, who were being challenged by Kristen Zadroga-Hart and Christopher Munoz for the chance to run again in November. Both mayors in their prospective cities viewed the primary as a barometer of what they might face in their municipal races– meaning Fulop in Jersey City in November and Davis in Bayonne next May. Both saw their organizations ride high in the races.
Aside from the Assembly races, local state Senators (and mayors) Brian Stack and Nicholas Sacco – despite running unopposed – got to show their level of support by bringing out thousands of voters.
Several council candidates ran unopposed in the primaries in Guttenberg, and county freeholders ran for the chance to face off in November for six seats on their board. The freeholders vote on policy and expenditures related to county institutions.
Statewide, Phil Murphy and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno won the Democratic and Republican primaries to face each other in November for governor.
The main surprise in the primaries is that there were no real surprises. Many candidates for Assembly and committee were running unopposed. The candidates who most people saw as the frontrunners in contested primaries — such as the Democratic governor’s race — ran away with an election that saw low turnout statewide.
Besides the gubernatorial primary, at stake were state Senate and Assembly seats, all nine freeholder seats, as well as county clerk, with only a handful of these contested.
The most watched primary this year was in the 31st District that includes half of Jersey City and all of Bayonne, where incumbent state Sen. Sandra Cunningham won the Democratic nomination unopposed with 9,777 votes. She will face off in November against Republican Herminio Mendoza, who won his party’s nomination with 546 votes.
Each Assembly district has two seats to fill. In a hotly contested Democratic race in the 31st District, incumbent Democrats Angela McKnight got 7,715 votes and Nicholas Chiaravalloti got 7,371, fending off a challenge by Kristen Zadroga-Hart with 3,451 and Christopher Munoz with 2,605.
Republican candidates Michael Alonso won with 502 and Lauren DiGiaro with 473.
In the 32nd District that includes North Bergen, West New York, Secaucus, Guttenberg and portions of Bergen County, incumbent Senator Nicholas Sacco won the Democratic nomination unopposed with 9,664. Sacco will face off against Republican candidate Paul Castelli, who won with 821.
Incumbent Democratic Assembly members Vincent Prieto got 9,213 votes and Angelica Jimenez had 9,158. They will run in November against Republican candidates Ann M. Corletta with 776 and Bartholomew J. Talamini with 747.
In 33rd District that includes all of Union City, half of Jersey City, and all of Hoboken and Weehawken, incumbent Democratic senator Brian Stack won unopposed with 10,393 votes and will be opposed by Republican candidate Beth Hamberger who won with 730.
Incumbent Democratic Assembly members Annette Chaparro with 9,137 and Raj Mukherji with 8,988 will run in November against Republican candidates Francisco Aguilar with 709 and Holly Lucyk with 697.
E. Junior Maldonado won the Democratic nomination for county clerk and will face off against Blake Lichtenberger who with 1,592 beat Republican challenger Charles M. Shepard with 744.
Statewide, for the gubernatorial primaries, Phil Murphy won the Democratic nomination and lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno won for the Republicans. They will face off in November.
Democratic Bayonne Freeholder Kenneth Kopacz won the nomination for 1st District Freeholder seat with 3,103 votes. There is no Republican challenger.
In District 2 which covers the West Side of Jersey City, Freeholder William O’Dea won unopposed with 3,022. He also faces no Republican challenger.
In Freeholder District 3, representing southern Jersey City, Jerry Walker with 3,017 beat challenge Andrew Kemp, 1,234. There is no Republican challenger.
In District 4 representing downtown Jersey City, Joel Torres with 3,234 votes beat Imtiaz Syed with 624. There is no Republican candidate.
In District 5 representing Hoboken and part of Jersey City Heights, incumbent Democratic Freeholder Anthony Romano with 3,791 votes beat Patricia A. Waiters with 915. In November Romano will face Republican candidate Adela Rohena who won with 330.
In District 6 representing Union City, Democratic incumbent Tilo Rivas won nomination with 75 votes. He has no Republican opposition.
In District 7 that represented West New York and Weehawken, Democratic incumbent Freeholder Caridad Rodriguez won the nomination with 2,973. There is no Republican candidate.
In District 8 which represents North Bergen and a portion of Secaucus, Democratic incumbent Freeholder Anthony P. Vainieri Jr. won with 5,577. He will face no Republican candidate in November.
In District 9, which represents a portion of Secaucus and all of Kearny, Harrison and East Newark, incumbent Democratic Freeholder Albert J. Cifelli won with 1,810 votes. There is no Republican candidate.
Guttenberg council primaries – unopposed
In the primary in Guttenberg, Democrat Wayne D. Zitt Jr., with 515 votes, won nomination for mayor while Democratic council candidates Monica Fundora with 492, John D. Habermann with 497, and Richard Delafuente with 479 won their nominations for the three-member council. There are no Republican challengers.
Mayors watch carefully
Primaries normally are elections in which the group with the best organization wins.
“Will you look at those numbers!” — Steven Fulop
This year brought a sharp challenge, especially in Jersey City, when the teachers’ union withdrew its support from Chiaravalloti and became a test of both mayors’ ability to get out their vote. Both mayors will need their organizations in their municipal elections in order to retain their seats.
Fulop’s expression said it all when he stared up at the tally board in Zeppelin Hall in Jersey City. Around him, his supporters in a tizzy of joy, celebrating as if this was a lot more than just another primary.
“Will you look at those numbers!” Fulop said, with a wide grin and eyes glowing under the multitude of flashing lights, his voice barely audible over the stream of music to which many of his followers danced.
McKnight hugged supporter after supporter, clearly relieved at a victory that allowed her to overwhelm her union-supported challenger, Zadroga-Hart.
Fulop said he had a lot to be proud of as candidates won decisively even though the overall turnout in the primary was low.
The Davis election crew had a very nervous hour after the polls closed, gathered in offices above the San Vito Restaurant in Bayonne. Some paced as they waited for poll challengers to bring in the written-numbers from each polling place.
Supporters of Munoz made it clear that this was less about Chiaravalloti than a test of Davis’ political machine. Several members of Chiaravalloti’s camp pointed to areas of concern, places where Munoz showed strength, but said overall the campaign was extremely successful.
Davis people said the low turnout benefited Chiaravalloti over Munoz.
The turnout was 22 percent but the total number of votes showed that Davis and Fulop got out the vote they needed.
Zimmer takes control in Hoboken
Another clear winner not on the ballot was Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who also has a municipal election coming in November.
“We won 62 seats on the Democratic Committee,” said Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher.
Although the Hoboken, like Bayonne and Jersey City, municipal elections are non partisan, Zimmer’s success with local Democratic Party committee seats could foreshadow problems for opposition candidates in November. Committee people make up the rank and file of political power in most communities, and the result could mark the end of traditional “born and raised” influence over the party, posing a problem for Freeholder Anthony Romano, should he decide to jump into the mayoral race later this year.
This may also indicate serious problems for Karen Nason and Michael DeFusco, the two declared candidates who oppose Zimmer and may rely on older Hoboken residents to win in November.
Zimmer also may be able to break through the glass ceiling of 50 percent of the popular vote when she runs later this year. In the past, Zimmer has managed to win with less than 50 percent of the total vote by dividing her opposition. In 2013, two opposing tickets split the anti-Zimmer vote. This year, things could be a lot different.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.