For the moment, Cumberland County Clerk Gloria Noto is joined by three other county-wide Republican elected officials. In January, she will be alone.
Democrats won complete control of the freeholder board this month, 7-0, and knocked out two Republican constitutional officers: Sheriff Michael Barruzza and Surrogate Arthur Marchand. That has left Noto, who’s up for reelection next year after 14 years in office, as the last Republican county-wide election official.
“I don’t have to tell you I’m broken hearted. It’s like losing part of your family,” said Noto.
Noto knows there’s a target on her back – that Cumberland Democratic Chairman Lou Magazzu, who’s also the freeholder director, has his sights set on her. But she said she will definitely run again.
“Mr. Magazzu has been targeting me since he started,” she said. “He’d probably like to continue to run the whole county, and I certainly do anticipate his targeting me, but that’s not news to me, since he’s been doing that every time he gets a chance.”
This year, Noto said, the mostly Democratic freeholder board had her keep her office open from 8:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. in the run-up to the election to allow voters extra time to come in and cast paper ballots. That was after Democrats increased their ranks in the county by about 10,000.
“This was never done before in the history of Cumberland County, but since they had the freeholder board that was controlled by Democrats, they knew what they were looking for,” she said, adding that it cost the county thousands of dollars in overtime.
And while the final reports aren’t in yet, Noto said that the Democrats outspent the Republicans by huge margins.
This year was a particularly rough one for Cumberland County Republicans, who spent most of the last three decades in the minority on the freeholder board, but often held the county’s constitutional offices and stayed competitive.
Noto, however, doesn’t blame the party’s new leadership under Chairman Doug Sorantino, who took over after the 33 year tenure of Larry Pepper.
“We had so much against us. Ten thousand voters more in one county and the money that came into the Democrats’ campaign. I don’t think you could have ever changed the results of this election – not because they didn’t try, but because it was impossible. It was like a tsunami of votes.”
*Update: Cumberland County Democratic Chairman/Freeholder Director Lou Magazzu responds to Noto’s comments at length.
“I read with interest Mrs. Noto’s comments about me and her announcement for re-election. Although the Cumberland Democratic candidates certainly benefited from the national surge for Democrats, their win is because of the quality they brought as candidates for Freeholder, Surrogate and Sheriff as well as the quality of their message. As recently as 2000, Cumberland County was a 4-3 Democrat/Republican Board, with three Republican constitutional officers, one Republican State Senator and Four Republican Assemblymen, including former Speaker Jack Collins. Now all they have is one Republican County Clerk.
During the last legislative session in 2000, former Speaker Collins at the insistence of Clerk Noto advanced legislation which dramatically increased the salaries of the Constitutional officers in Cumberland County from $63,000 to $92,000. In 2009, those salaries were scheduled to be $106,000. This legislation resulted in the taxpayers of Cumberland County paying increased fees on everything that was done in the offices of the Clerk, Surrogate and Sheriff. As was observed in the past election, these three Republican elected officials and their three appointed deputies split nearly $3.2 million in salaries since 2001, including over $890,000 in raises.
In every election since I have been county chairman, the Cumberland County Democratic party through its candidates raised this pay raise issue. Since I have been County Democratic Chairman we have defeated all four Republican Freeholders (Sauro, Sorantino, Gruccio and Rocco) who supported the pay raises as well as now the two constitutional officers who benefited from it. Clerk Noto is a very tough campaigner and has survived past elections and she may survive 2009. But Mrs. Noto and all of her Republican colleagues should now know that her greed and the greed of the other constitutional officers has decimated the Cumberland County Republican party.
The Republican leadership should have followed former Senator Bill Gormley and former Assemblyman Nick Asselta who both voted against the pay raises. At the time , then Assemblyman Asselta predicted that the Cumberland Republican party would pay at the polls for ten years because of that legislation. So far, it appears that he was correct.
The people of Cumberland County understand that there is no excuse for politicians to be making $100,000 in one of the poorest counties in the state. That is why the voters reacted so well to the plan by Doug Rainear and Bob Austino to cut their salaries and those of their two deputies by a total of $110,000 per year.
I can assure Mrs. Noto that the people of Cumberland County will have the opportunity to vote for a Democrat who will also give real savings to the Taxpayers by returning a portion of their salary and that of the Deputy Clerk.
I cannot help but note the irony that Clerk Noto bemoans the fact that extra taxpayer dollars were used to allow voters to vote from the Clerk’s office, while making no apology for accepting her part of the $3.1 million in salaries divided by her and her five greedy Republicans. I am proud that the Democratic controlled Freeholder Board has fought these salaries for greedy politicians and also has fought to allow every voter to have his or her day at the polls, no matter how they voted.
I have to note that the county Republicans did exactly what I predicted , made “Lou Magazzu” the issue even though I was not on the ballot. It appears that the electorate was pleased with the direction of the county under the leadership of the Democrats, just as they were in 2006 and 2007 when Democratic candidates swept all Freeholder positions .The Republican candidates also attempted to take advantage of Congressman Frank LoBiondo’s popularity by running as TEAM LOBIONDO. Even though the Republican Congressman exceeded 60% of the vote in Cumberland County, thousands of voters then voted for the entire Democratic team. Despite hundreds of thousand of state Republican committee dollars and a still popular Republican Congressman, the greed of the local county Republicans sunk the ticket. But for Mrs. Noto’s greed, Cumberland County might be a much more competitive county politically.
For the last 30 years Cumberland County has been competitive politically and as noted above, Republicans have been dominant in some ways. In one election, Republican County Chairman Doug Sorantino and Gloria Noto did the improbable, made Mrs. Noto the last Republican standing.”