Keep an eye on Long Branch and West Orange

Voters in 33 New Jersey municipalities will go to the polls on May 11 in non-partisan municipal elections.  The marquee race is in Newark, where Mayor Cory Booker is seeking a second term against former Judge Clifford Minor.  Booker won with 75% of the vote in 2006 and the expectations game is his greatest rival.  Booker is also defending several City Council seats, including a contest in the South Ward where the son of former Mayor Sharpe James is a candidate.   

In Trenton, eleven candidates are running to succeed five-term Mayor Douglas Palmer is not seeking re-election.  The contest, which includes three city council members, a Mercer County Freeholder and a former Freeholder, is almost certain to go to a June runoff election.  Two-term Paterson Mayor Joey Torres faces City Councilmen Jeffrey Jones and Andre Sayegh.

The best race in the state might be in Long Branch, where Mayor Adam Schneider is seeking a sixth term against Councilman Brian Unger.  The race might come down to voter anger over eminent domain, the predominant local issue in Long Branch, and incumbents in general, versus Schneider’s ability to depict Unger at too peculiar for the job. 

In Bayonne, Mayor Mark Smith is the favorite to win re-election against Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone.  Chiappone was indicted on state corruption charges last year, but still won re-election to his seat in the Legislature.

Also worth watching is the contest in West Orange, where Assemblyman John McKeon is retiring after twelve years as mayor.  Councilman Robert Parisi faces a real challenge from John Schmidt, who heads a local taxpayer watchdog group.  Parisi is the establishment candidate and Schmidt is hoping for a boost by the same voters who turned out to defeat the school budget by a ten percentage point margin.  The budget vote puts Parisi in the hot seat; as a Councilman, he’ll have to vote yes or no on a new school budget.