Results are in! Merklinger, Trigg-Scales win BOE seats

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — After nearly a month of waiting with bated breath, Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin has certified the county’s results from the Nov. 6 election. In addition to answers about how each town voted in myriad elections, there is now a final answer as to who won the very close Board of Education election. Cheryl Merklinger and Terry Trigg-Scales will take the two open seats on the Board of Education, narrowly beating out the third candidate, Jeremias Salinas.

According to Durkin’s certified results, voter turnout was middling; however, Durkin has previously told the West Orange Chronicle that voter registration numbers are not wholly accurate as names are not removed from the registry unless requested, meaning if someone moves away, they are still listed as a registered voter. Essex County saw a voter turnout of 50.75 percent. West Orange had a voter turnout of 57.66 percent.

Prior to certification from Durkin, the election for West Orange Board of Education, in which no incumbents ran, was simply too close to call. It is now clear, however, that Merklinger and Trigg-Scales have won the two open seats. Merklinger took the No. 1 spot with 8,435 votes, or 33.7 percent, and Trigg-Scales took the No. 2 spot with 8,320 votes, or 33.2 percent. Salinas came in third with 8,197 votes, or 32.7 percent. There were 68 write-in votes.

“I am overwhelmed and excited to have won the election, especially to top the ticket,” Merklinger told the Chronicle. “The support of so many in our West Orange Township — whether by a text message, an email, a sign on their front lawn, a face-to-face conversation — it was truly amazing and I appreciate everyone who contributed in their each unique way to my campaign.

“I look forward to continuing my work within West Orange in a new capacity,” she continued, adding that the issue she most looks forward to working on is “understanding our bottlenecks in communication and how to resolve them in a manner that meets the needs of community.”

Trigg-Scales is also looking forward to serving West Orange on the BOE.

“It feels both humbling and exciting to be a Board of Education member-elect! I look forward to bringing my knowledge of education and administrative experience to serve the West Orange community,” Trigg-Scales told the Chronicle. “I am heartened by the level of interest that the election generated and I hope that we can maintain the community’s momentum of engagement.

“In addition to beginning the superintendent search, I look forward to working with my fellow board members to increase the quality and process of communication and collaboration with the greater school community. I view this as a priority,” she continued, adding to the West Orange voters, “I thank you for your support and vote of confidence.”

In the BOE election, vote getters from highest to lowest by ward were: in Ward 1, Trigg-Scales, Salinas and Merklinger; in Wards 2, 3 and 5, Salinas, Merklinger and Trigg-Scales; and in Ward 4, Merklinger, Trigg-Scales and Salinas.

In the West Orange mayoral election, incumbent Mayor Robert Parisi defeated Councilman Joe Krakoviak with approximately two votes for every vote Krakoviak received. Parisi earned 11,666 votes, or 66 percent, and Krakoviak earned 5,981 votes, or 33.8 percent. There were 33 write-in votes. Parisi was the top vote getter in each of West Orange’s five wards.

For West Orange Township Council, Councilwoman Susan McCartney was re-elected by a landslide, with challenger Cindy Matute-Brown snagging the other open seat. McCartney received 7,219 votes, or 26.3 percent, and Matute-Brown received 5,675 votes, or 20.7 percent. Challenger Monica Perkowski earned 4,987 votes, or 18.2 percent; incumbent Councilman Victor Cirilo earned 4,777 votes, or 17.4 percent; and Susan Scarpa earned 4,724 votes, or 17.2 percent. There were 40 write-in votes.

In the council election, vote getters from highest to lowest by ward were: in Ward 1, McCartney, Matute-Brown, Perkowski, Cirilo and Scarpa; in Ward 2, McCartney, Matute-Brown, Scarpa, Perkowski and Cirilo; in Ward 3, McCartney, Matute-Brown, Cirilo, Perkowski and Scarpa; in Ward 4, McCartney, Perkowski, Matute-Brown, Scarpa and Cirilo; and in Ward 5, McCartney, Cirilo, Matute-Brown, Scarpa and Perkowski.

This election cycle, West Orange voters also were able to voice their opinion by nonbinding referendum on how the township should spend $400,000 in capital funds, an amount earmarked for an undecided public project. The four choices were: an emergency information AM radio station; Pleasant Valley Way sidewalk repairs between Belle Terre Road and Mellon Avenue; a special needs playground of inclusive play; and an Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center improvement and handicapped parking project.

The special needs playground won, with 5,448 votes, or 50.9 percent. The sidewalk repairs came in second with 2,659 votes, or 24.8 percent; the radio station came in third with 1,394 votes, or 13 percent; and the OSPAC improvements came in last with 1,205 votes, or 11.3 percent.

As this was a nonbinding referendum, the final choice will finally be decided township officials.

Statewide, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat, won re-election to U.S. Senate for his third term with approximately 54 percent of the vote, beating out Republican opponent Bob Hugin, who garnered approximately 43 percent of the vote. The other six candidates each received fewer than 2 percent of the vote. In Essex County, Menendez took 76.5 percent of the county’s votes, while Hugin took only 21 percent. While most of the larger municipalities in Essex County went to Menendez, Hugin earned the most votes in Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Fairfield, North Caldwell, Roseland and West Caldwell.

Unsurprisingly, Menendez received a majority of votes in West Orange; he received 75 percent of votes and Hugin received 22.1 percent.

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. was re-elected to represent the 10th Congressional District, which represents parts of Essex, Hudson and Union counties. Payne has held his seat since 2012, when he was elected to complete his father’s incomplete term. In Essex County, the 10th District encompasses all of East Orange, Glen Ridge, Irvington, Maplewood, Orange and South Orange, and parts of Bloomfield, Montclair, Newark and West Orange. Throughout the district, on Nov. 6, Payne, a Democrat, received approximately 87.5 percent of the votes, while Republican Agha Khan received approximately 10 percent; the three other candidates each received fewer than 2 percent of the vote.

In Essex County, Payne received 92.4 percent of the votes and Khan received just 5.8 percent. In West Orange, Payne received 83.4 percent of the votes and Khan received 12.8 percent of the votes. Parts of West Orange’s Wards 1 and 2 are in the 10th Congressional District, as are all of Wards 3 and 5.

Flipping the seat, Democrat Mikie Sherrill won the 11th Congressional District, which has been held since 1995 by U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a Republican who did not run for re-election. The district includes parts of Essex, Morris, Passaic and Sussex counties; in Essex County, it encompasses all of Caldwell, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Fairfield, Livingston, North Caldwell, Nutley, Roseland, Verona and West Caldwell, and parts of Bloomfield, Montclair and West Orange.

Throughout the district, Sherrill received approximately 56 percent of the votes and Republican Jay Webber received 43 percent. The other two candidates each received less than 1 percent of the votes. In Essex County, Sherrill earned 66.2 percent of the votes and Webber earned 32.7 percent. In West Orange, Sherrill received 79.4 percent of the votes and Webber received 19.6 percent. Parts of West Orange’s Wards 1 and 2 are in the 11th Congressional District, as is all of Ward 4.

In the county elections, incumbent Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. handily won re-election as county executive. A Democrat, he won 81 percent of the votes, while Republican John Chiaia received 16.3 percent and Independent John Jay Arena received 2.6 percent.

Sheriff Armando Fontoura, a Democrat, won re-election with 81.8 percent of the votes and Republican Pasquale Capozzoli received 18.2 percent. For county surrogate, Democratic challenger Alturrick Kenney won with 80 percent and Republican challenger John Anello received 19.9 percent.

In a statewide public question on the ballots, voters were able to decide on the School Projects Bond. Approximately 52 percent of state voters supported issuing $500 million in general obligation bonds for project grants related to vocational schools, college career or technical education, school water infrastructure and school security, while approximately 48 percent did not support it.

In Essex County, 68.5 percent of voters supported the School Projects Bond. In West Orange, 63.5 percent supported the bond.