Nutley Mayor Joanne Cocchiola, who won re-election tonight by one of the biggest margins in local history, has bucked a historical trend that has denied every mayor a second consecutive term since at least 1968.
Nutley has a Commissioner form of government and all five commissioners are elected in one election held every four years. By tradition, the top vote-getter becomes Mayor. In 2004, Cocchiola became Nutley’s first woman Mayor when she led Mauro Tucci by 55 votes (and incumbent Peter Scarpelli by 686 votes) in the race for Commissioner.
Former Senate President Carmen Orechio, a Commissioner from 1968 until his loss tonight, was Mayor from 1972 to 1976, again from 1980 to 1984, and for a third time from 1992 to 1996. Harry Chenoweth received more votes than Orechio in 1976 and again in 1984. When Chenoweth retired, Assemblyman John Kelly ran for Commissioner and became Mayor after getting more votes than Orechio, but four years later — in 1992 — Kelly was ousted as Mayor when Orechio reclaimed the post. Nutley gave a non–incumbent, Garry Furnari the most votes in 1996, but four years later, Furnari (by then a State Senator) came in fourth in the May Commissioner race and Scarpelli became Mayor.
The battle for the #1 slot — in effect the mayoral election — is often close: Scarpelli won it by 60 votes (over Orechio) in 2000; Furnari by 102 votes (over Scarpelli) in 1996; and Orechio by 71 votes (over Kelly) in 1992.