One important battleground in the election of 2008 is in South Bergen, an assortment of blue collar, politically competitive municipalities with a long history of ticket splitting. The towns south of Route 4 are critical for John McCain (Republicans have never won statewide in New Jersey without carrying Bergen County) and for the Republicans seeking to break the 7-0 Democratic majority on the Board of Freeholders. South Bergen is also the political base of the lone Republican remaining in county government, County Clerk Kathleen Donovan.
In a section of Bergen County where EnCap and the Meadowlands have dominated local politics in recent years, there are also key municipal races — with control at stake — in Rutherford, North Arlington, East Rutherford, Hasbrouck Heights, and Elmwood Park; and important contests in Bogota and South Hackensack.
Rutherford (pop. 18,110) has a Republican mayor and a Borough Council that has three Republicans and three Democrats. Last year, John Hipp ousted incumbent Bernadette McPherson by a massive 69%-31% margin, and the GOP ousted two incumbent councilmembers. In 2008, Democratic Councilmen Joseph Sommer and George Fencanin are not seeking re-election. Democrats Jack Boyle and Kimberly Birdsall will try to stop the Republicans from taking control of the Council. A split among local Republicans caused a contested primary; Hipp's candidates, Joseph DeSalvo and Frank Wilson, handily defeated two candidates backed by GOP Municpal Chairman John Daub in the primary. McPherson is also on the ballot, as a candidate for re-election to the Bergen County Board of Freeholders. In 2007, Democratic State Sen. Paul Sarlo won 43% in Rutherford. In 2004, John Kerry carried the borough by 509 votes (53%-47%).
North Arlington (pop. 15,181) has a Democratic mayor and a 4-2 Democratic majority on the Borough Council. In 2007, two Republican challengers, Joseph Bianchi and Richard Hughes, ousted Democratic incumbents Philip Spanola and Mark Yampaglia. Control is at stake in 2008: Democratic Councilman Steven Tanelli is seeking re-election, and with incumbent James Ferriero not seeking re-election, Yampaglia is looking to mount a comeback. James Herrmann, a former two term Republican Councilman and school board member, is also seeking a return to the seat he held until losing a 2004 re-election bid, along with James Bocchino, who lost a bid for Council by 222 votes in 2006. In 2007, Sarlo won North Arlington by 60 votes (51%-49%) and Kerry carried in by just six.
East Rutherford (pop. 8,716) has a Republican mayor and a 5-1 Republican majority on the Borough Council. GOP incumbent Sam Stallone is seeking re-election and running mate Thomas Banca is a candidate for an open Democratic seat. (Gary Viccaro, who lost a bid for mayor in 2007 by a 2-1 margin, is not a candidate for re-election.) The Democratic candidates are Richard DeLauro and Carol Coronato, who both lost their bids for re-election last year. Sarlo won East Rutherford 52%-48%, but Democratic Assemblymen Gary Schaer and Frederick Scalera narrowly lost the borough to their GOP challengers. Kerry beat George W. Bush by just 28 votes.
Hasbrouck Heights (pop. 11,662) has a Republican mayor and a Borough Council with three Republicans and three Democrats. Rose Heck returned to public office last year, easily winning the mayoral post she held from 1988 to 1995. Heck, 76, had served in the State Assembly from 1991 until her unsuccessful bid for State Senator in 2003. Republican Council President Justin DiPisa is seeking re-election, but Maryetta Saccomano, who switched to the Democratic Party earlier this year, is not. DiPisa is running with Pamela Link; they face Democrats Leonard Introna, a former Councilman who lost re-election last year, and John Jackson. Bush carried Hasbrouck Heights with 54% of the vote. In 2007, Republican State Senate candidate Robert Coletti carried Hasbrouck Heights with 59% of the vote against Democrat Robert Gordon. In the 2004 presidential election, Bush won 54% of the vote.
Elmwood Park (pop. 18,925) has a Republican mayor, Richard Mola, and a 3-2 Republican majority on the Borough Council. Mola has served as mayor since 1971 and was re-elected to a tenth term last year with 62% of the vote against Councilman Frank Caramagna. Both Democratic Council seats are up in 2008: Caramagna and Theresa Ingala won the Democratic primary against incumbent Lorraine Pellegrine and former Councilman Frank Fasolo. In the general election, Caramagna and Ingala face Repubilcans Louis Vuoncino and Sammie Work. In a special election for a one-year unexpired term, GOP incumbent Richard Trawinski faces Angela Fava, who lost her Council seat last year. Fava defeated John Feda in the Democratic primary. Last year, Colletti, a former Elmwood Park Councilman, beat Gordon 55%-45%. Bush also won 55%.
Bogota (pop. 8,249) is the hometown of likely 2009 GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan, the leader of the state's conservative wing and the mayor for twelve years before his retirement in 2006. Now Bogota has a Democratic mayor and a 6-1 Democratic majority on the Borough Council. Last year, Patrick McHale defeated Republican Andrew Fede by 48 votes; Republican Councilwoman Anne Mitchell lost by just one vote. In 2008, incumbents Antaro "Tito" Jackson and John Lyons face challenges from Fede and Richard Gil de Leon, who lost a special election to Lyons in 2007 by 41 votes. Democratic State Sen. Loretta Weinberg carried Bogota with 64% of the vote in 2007. Kerry won 58% in the last presidential race.
South Hackensack (pop. 2,249) has a Township Committee with three Republicans and two Democrats. The GOP ended a 5-0 Democratic majority in 2006 when Rosina Romano (now the mayor) and Gene Roman won two open seats held by the Democrats. In 2007, Republicans won control a third seat with the defeat of an incumbent Democrat. This year, the last Democratic Councilmen, James Anzevino and Walter Eckel, face just one GOP challenger: Renee Czarnecki, the Republican Municipal Chairwoman and the wife of a former mayor. Bush won South Hackensack by 14 votes in 2004. In the '07 Senate race, Coletti beat Gordon by eleven votes; Bush defeated Kerry by fourteen. (Also in 2007, Czarnecki ran for State Assembly and was the top vote-getter.)
Wallington (pop. 11,583) has a Democratic mayor and a 6-0 Democratic Council. Incumbents Steve Adzima and James Furtak face just one Republican challenger, Kenneth Kanter. Democrats ran unopposed in 2007, even though Republican Council candidates lost by just slightly more than 200 votes in 2006. Sarlo won 61%, and Kerry took 54%.
Moonachie (pop. 2,754) has a Democratic mayor and a 6-0 Democratic Council. Democratic incumbents George Cahill and Maureen Flynn are running unopposed. Republicans did not field candidates in 2006 and 2007 either. Sarlo carried Moonachie with 66%, and Bush beat Kerry by only 17 votes.
Carlstadt (pop. 5,917) has a Republican mayor and the GOP won complete control of the Borough Council last year when Democratic incumbents Adrianna Cassiere Allen and David Hollenbeck were defeated for re-election. The two are seeking a political comeback in 2008, challenging Republican Councilmen Joseph Crifasi and Dennis Ritchie. Sarlo (with the endorsement of local GOP officials) won Carlstadt 54%-46%, and Bush won it 51%-49%.
Wood-Ridge (pop. 7,505) has a Democratic mayor, Sarlo, and a 6-0 Democratic Council. Republicans did not field local candidates in 2007; in 2008, one Republican, Forrest Elliott, is challenging Democratic incumbents Dominick Azzolini and Cosmo Gonnella. In his 2007 State Senate race, Sarlo carried his hometown with 63% of the vote. Bush beat Kerry 53%-47%.
Lyndhurst (pop. 19,383) holds non-partisan municipal elections in May. Republicans had a 5-0 majority on the governing body, but all five — led by Mayor (and former GOP Assembly candidate) Richard DiLascio, switched parties last October. Sarlo carried Lyndhurst with 56%, and Bush beat Kerry by 183 votes (51%-49%).
Little Ferry (pop. 10,800) has a Democratic mayor and a 6-0 Democratic Council. Democrats run unopposed in 2007. This fall, incumbents Roberta Henriquez and Patricia Navarro-Cohen face GOP challengers Foster Lowe and Bernard Sobolewski. In a race for a one-year unexpired term, incumbent Ronald Anzalone faces Republican Conrad De Leeuw. Gordon carried Little Ferry in his Senate race with 62%, and Kerry won 56% against Bush.
Maywood (pop. 9,523) has a Democratic mayor and a 6-0 Democratic majority on the Borough Council. Incumbents Nancy Jingo and William Rupp, who won a contested primary, have no Republican opposition. In a race for an unexpired term, Democrat Paul Bresko faces Republican Anthony Klymenko, who has lost two previous races. Weinberg carried the borough with 62%, and Kerry won 51%, beating Bush by 109 votes.
Rochelle Park (pop. 5,528) has a 5-0 Republican majority on the Township Committee. In 2008, Mayor Joseph Scarpa and Committeeman Frank Valenzuela are running unopposed. Weinberg won 54%, and Bush won 53%.
Saddle Brook (pop. 13,155) has a Democratic mayor and a Township Council with three Democrats and two Republicans. This fall, Democratic incumbents Florence Mazzer and Joseph Setticase are seeking re-election, along with James McGinnis, whose late mother served as a Councilwoman and Township Clerk. They face Councilman Anthony Halko, who was appointed to fill a vacancy earlier this year, Paul Jack Altemus, and Andrew Cimiluca. Gordon won 55% of the vote in his Senate race, while Bush beat Kerry with 53% of the vote.
Ridgefield (pop. 10,830) has a Democratic mayor and a 6-0 Republican majority on the Borough Council. In 2007, Anthony Suarez won a narrow 52%-48% re-election bid over GOP Council President Robert Avery, but the Republicans captured two open Democratic Council seats. Avery is seeking another term as a Councilman, along with incumbent Thomas Blackley. They face Javier Acosta (a former Councilman who finished fifth in 2006 after running as an Independent) and Russell Castelli, who lost a close race for Council last year. Kerry won 52%-48% against Bush.
Ridgefield Park (pop. 12,873) holds May non-partisan elections for the Board of Commissioners. Weinberg carried the village with 69%, while Kerry won 56% of the vote.
Garfield (pop. 29,786) elects City Council members in non-partisan elections held in May of presidential years. Republicans and Democrats each have two seats (the mayor is a Republican), and a fifth Councilman, Stanley Moskal, is an independent. Sarlo won by Garfield by a 2-1 margin, and Kerry beat Bush with 59% of the vote.
Lodi (pop. 23,971) elects their local governing body in May non-partisan elections, although Mayor Mark Schrieks is the Bergen County Democratic Organization District 38 Vice Chairman. Gordon won 68% and Kerry won 58%.
Teterboro (pop. 18) has non-partisan elections. Kerry received 14 votes, with Bush for 8 — a margin of six votes and a 64%-36% percentage.