Montclair voters tonight selected political newcomer Jerry Fried to become their next mayor.
Fried got 40.3% of the preliminary vote to Joyce Michaelson’s 34.8% and Ted Mattox’s 24.89%, according to the Township’s Web site. Totals do not count absentee or provisional ballots, and some of the council races are close enough that those could make a difference.
The mayor here is slightly more powerful than a regular councilman, with the power to appoint the town’s school board.
But rather than bask in the victory, Fried was cautious not to ignore his running mates, at least two of whom didn’t make it.
Some of the vote totals are too close to call indefinitely, but it appears that Fried’s “Unity Montclair” slate also took three council seats. “Partnership Montclair,” which was headed by Michaelson, picked up two council seats, while the “Thrive Montclair” ticket headed by Mattox was routed.
“What I’ve learned from this thing – this whole process – I’ve basically learned to ask the question ‘can you help me?’” said Fried in a victory speech at his cramped campaign headquarters on Bloomfield Avenue. “What this whole campaign has been about is everyone trying to make the town better. I just want tot hank you all for doing that.”
For councilor-at-large, “Partnership Montclair” candidate Roger Terry was the top vote-getter, with 24.19% of the vote. Kathryn Weller, Fried’s running mate, was also appears to have won an at-large seat, but only by 48 votes.
In the first ward, Rich Murnick scored a narrow victory over incumbent Gerry Tobin, with 761 votes to Tobin’s 743.
In the second ward, Cary Africk beat Peter Zorich and Mark Reynolds, earning 49.88% of the vote altogether.
In the third ward, Nick Lewis beat Jerold Ferier and Joanna Brick.
And in the fourth ward, independent candidate Renee E. Baskerville got almost 50% of the vote, despite running against three other candidates.
At her poll watch party at Tierney’s Tavern, the mood was optimistic. Michaelson ahd the endorsement of outgoing mayor Ed Remsen and Senate President Dick Codey – an endorsement that drew criticism from both her opponents as injecting partisan politics into a non-partisan election.
Michaelson’s slate used the same campaign office and party venue as Remsen’s did four years ago, leading Zorich campaign manager Ilmar Vanderer to quote Yogi Berra, who had actually shown up at one of the slate’s events.
“I hope it’s déjà vu all over again,” he said, adding that the Codey criticism was sour grapes. “If another slate had been endorsed by Dick Codey, they would have blasted it everywhere.”
Michaelson, for her part, grew quiet as she watched the totals come in on a television above the bar that was tuned to the local public access television statement.
“I have my record. He has no record. We’ll see what he can do,” she said. “Everyone took pot shots at me because I was ahead, and it was hard for me to be in the middle of two people coming from both sides. I wish Montclair well.”