ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — The results are in! Essex County Clerk Christopher Durkin has certified the November 2020 election results, in which 351,931 ballots were cast countywide. According to the clerk’s office, 58.06 percent of registered voters in Essex County voted, a big boost from last year’s general election, when only 91,105 ballots were cast, marking just 17.01 percent of registered voters; an additional 73,526 people registered to vote in the past year.
The West Orange Township Council race was highly contested this year, with seven candidates running for just three open seats, one of which was vacated by Councilman Joe Krakoviak, who chose not to run for reelection, citing his strong belief in term limits. Incumbent Michelle Casalino took the top spot, with 9,798 votes, or 17.86 percent of the vote. Following behind Casalino and taking the second and third open seats were challengers Tammy Williams and H. William Rutherford. Williams received 9,277 votes, or 16.91 percent, and Rutherford received 8,953 votes, or 16.32 percent.
Not making the cut this election season were challenger Monica Perkowski with 8,595 votes, or 15.67 percent; incumbent Jerry Guarino with 6,757 votes, or 12.32 percent; challenger Susan Scarpa with 6,603 votes, or 12.03 percent; and challenger Brent Scott with 4,884 votes, or 8.9 percent.
In Bloomfield, Democratic incumbents Jenny Mundell, Nicholas Joanow and Sarah Cruz were running unopposed for Township Council and won. In Glen Ridge, incumbent Deborah Mans and newcomer David Lefkovits won the two open seats on the Borough Council, having run unopposed. Similarly in Maplewood, Deputy Mayor Dean Dafis and Committeeman Vic DeLuca, both incumbent Democrats, ran unopposed for Township Committee.
The Board of Education elections throughout the towns saw some heated races.
In Bloomfield, a slate of three incumbents was running against a slate of three challengers for the three open seats on the Board of Education. The only incumbent to win reelection was Jessica Salinas, who received the highest number of votes at 8,531, or 20.31 percent. Winning the other two open seats were challengers Nadeisha Greene with 7,517 votes, or 17.9 percent, and Kasey Dudley with 7,227 votes, or 17.21 percent.
Losing their seats on the Bloomfield BOE were Ellen Rogers with 6,888 votes, or 16.4 percent, and Thomas Heaney with 6,340 votes, or 15.09 percent. Coming in last was challenger Satenik Margaryan with 5,500 votes, or 13.09 percent.
The Glen Ridge BOE election saw only one incumbent vying to regain her seat; current board members Alison Lang and Paul Romano chose not to run for reelection. Incumbent Tracey St. Auburn and her slate won a decisive victory for the three open seats. St. Auburn was elected to her third term with 2,485 votes, or 28.3 percent, and her running mates snagged the other two spots, with Jocelyn Gottlieb winning 2,457 votes, or 27.98 percent, and Duval Graham winning 2,252 votes, or 25.64 percent. Challenger Larry Rudman, who ran solo, garnered 1,588 votes, or 18.08 percent.
The South Orange–Maplewood Board of Education saw five candidates running for three open seats, with none of the incumbents seeking reelection. The team of Susan Bergin and Courtney Winkfield took a significant lead, winning two of the three open seats; Bergin received 11,321 votes, or 24.79 percent, and Winkfield received 11,085 votes, or 24.27 percent.
The third open seat was close between Elissa Malespina and Deborah Engel, but Malespina edged out Engel by just 276 votes. Malespina received 8,713 votes, or 19.08 percent, to clinch the last seat. Not winning the election were Engel with 8,437 votes, or 18.47 percent, and Melanie Finnern, with 6,115 votes, or 13.39 percent.
One of the biggest races was for the Orange Board of Education, with nine candidates running for just three open seats. Garnering the most votes was challenger Fatimah Turner, with 3,064 votes, or 18.73 percent. Challenger Samantha Crockett took second with 2,177 votes, or 13.31 percent. Clinching the last open seat was incumbent Jeff Wingfield, one of Turner’s running mates, with 2,143 votes, or 13.10 percent.
Coming in close, but not close enough, was incumbent Tyrone Tarver, the board’s current president, with 2,064 votes, or 12.62 percent. Following him were challengers Sharon Forde, with 1,793 votes, or 10.96 percent; E. Lydell Carter, who ran with Turner and Wingfield, with 1,767 votes, or 10.8 percent; Leonor Young, Crockett’s running mate, with 1,662 votes, or 10.16 percent; Marsha Escalliere, Forde’s running mate, with 1,030 votes, or 6.3 percent; and Charles Pryor II, with 659 votes, or 4.03 percent.
The West Orange Board of Education race was fairly close, with challenger Melinda Huerta taking the win over incumbent Ken Alper, who is the current board president, for the one open seat on the five-person board. Huerta garnered 10,865 votes, or 53.42 percent, while Alper garnered 9,474 votes, or 46.58 percent.
On the county level, the Democrats rewon all their seats.
For county clerk, Democrat Christopher Durkin beat Republican opponent Kristina Christoforou in a landslide. Durkin received 257,059 votes, or 78.83 percent, to Christoforou’s 69,038 votes, or 21.17 percent.
For the Board of Chosen Freeholders — which will be called the Board of County Commissioners in 2021 — the Democrats kept their tight hold. Incumbent Freeholders at large Patricia Sebold, Rufus Johnson, President Brendan Gill and Romaine Graham each pulled in just under 20 percent of the votes, leaving slightly over 5 percent apiece for Republican challengers Monique Headen, Gynise Gotto, Bernarda Quezada and Alexandra Campisi. Sebold received 247,302 votes, or 19.55 percent; Johnson received 244,645 votes, or 19.34 percent; Gill received 245,701 votes, or 19.43 percent; and Graham received 241,755 votes, or 19.12 percent. On the Republican side, Headen received 70,949 votes, or 5.61 percent; Gotto received 70,797 votes, or 5.6 percent; Quezada received 70,475 votes, or 5.57 percent; and Campisi received 73,053 votes, or 5.78 percent.
Democratic freeholder incumbents running unopposed and rewinning their ward seats were Robert Mercado for Ward 1, Vice President Wayne Richardson for Ward 2, Tyshammie Cooper for Ward 3 and Carlos Pomares for Ward 5. In Ward 4, Democratic incumbent Leonard Luciano was battling Republican challenger Adam Kraemer, who impressively pulled in nearly 40 percent of the votes. Luciano received 55,678 votes, or 60.29 percent, while Kraemer received 36,672 votes, or 39.71 percent.
Essex County voters overwhelmingly voted yes on all three public questions, which all also passed at the state level. For Public Question No. 1, to approve a state constitutional amendment legalizing cannabis, 229,144 Essex County voters, or 71.95 percent, were in favor of it, with 89,315, or 28.05 percent, voting against it. For Public Question No. 2, to approve a state constitutional amendment to give a $250 property tax deduction to veterans who did not serve during wartime, 255,362 Essex County voters, or 82.07 percent, were in favor of it, with 55,806, or 17.93 percent, voting against it. For Public Question No. 3, to approve a state constitutional amendment to change when new legislative districts are created if the federal census data is delayed, 205,104 Essex County voters, or 68.45 percent, were in favor of it, with 94,533, or 31.55 percent, voting against it.
As for the federal elections, Essex County went decidedly blue. For president and vice president, the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris ticket received 266,820 votes, or 77.27 percent; the ticket containing President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence received just 75,475 votes, or 21.86 percent. The six other tickets, of Roque De La Fuente/Darcy Richardson, Gloria Estela La Riva/Sunil Freeman, Howie Hawkins/Angela Walker, Bill Hammons/Eric Bodenstab, Don Blankenship/William Mohr and Jo Jorgensen/Spike Cohen, received just 3,016 votes, or 0.87 percent.
U.S. Senator Cory Booker won reelection with approximately 57.2 percent of the votes, as opposed to Republican challenger Rikin Mehta, who took 40.9 percent of the votes. In Essex County, Booker garnered 260,604 votes, or 77.78 percent, while Mehta garnered just 69,750 votes, or 20.82 percent. The other three candidates, Veronica Fernandez, Daniel Burke and Madelyn Hoffman, received a combined 4,715 votes, or 1.41 percent.
In the congressional election for the 10th District, Democratic incumbent Donald Payne Jr. won his seat back in a landslide with 83.3 percent of the votes. Republican Jennifer Zinone received just 13.9 percent of the votes. The three independent challengers, Akil Khalfani, Lhaliah Fitchette and John Mirrione, won 1.2 percent, 1.2 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively. In Essex County, Payne received 146,101 votes, or 89.36 percent, to Zinone’s 13,000 votes, or 7.95 percent. Of the independents, Khalfani, a resident of West Orange, did the best, with 2,036 votes, or 1.25 percent.
For the 11th Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Mikie Sherrill was reelected to her second term, beating out Republican challenger Rosemary Becchi. Statewide, Sherrill received 53.3 percent of the votes, while Becchi garnered an impressive 46.7 percent. In Essex County, Sherrill received 71,053 votes, or 61.97 percent, while Becchi received 43,603 votes, or 38.03 percent.