One of the upsets of the year came in Passaic County, where Republicans won the County Clerk post and three Freeholder seats, despite a messy intra-party fight and even though Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine's won the county 53%-44%.
Corzine's numbers in Passaic County fell short of his performance in 2005, when he won 60%-40% against Republican Douglas Forrester. Corzine received 61,803 votes in 2005 and 57,010 in 2009; while Forrester received 41,532 votes, Christie's total was 48,500.
In Paterson, which makes up nearly 20% of the total votes cast in the county, Corzine's margin over Christie was 15,121, about the same as his 15,550 vote win over Forrester. Christie did a better than Forrester in Passaic and Clifton, but it was the suburbs that boosted his numbers: he carried Wayne by 3,623 votes – more than three times Forrester's margin (1,066) four years ago. He quadruped Forrester's margin in Hawthorne, and doubled them in Totowa, West Milford. Christie turned a 183 vote loss in Little Falls into a 359 vote win.
The key to the county GOP victories: huge drop-offs in the cities – Corzine received 5,213 more votes in Paterson and Passaic than the Democratic candidate for County Clerk – and GOP County Clerk-elect Kristin Corrado taking in just 899 votes more than Christie overall; solid wins in the north county towns; and a 52%-48% win in Clifton. Corzine won Clifton 50%-46%.
In the race for Freeholder, 1,236 votes separated the the low Republican votegetter, Deborah Ciambrone, from the top Democratic votegetter, incumbent Tahesha Way (46,846-45,610). Four years ago, Democrat Bruce James beat Republican Frank Gaccione by 11,703 votes (50,346-38,643). Corzine, who won the county twice, ran 4,793 votes behind his '05 numbers; Way received 4,736 votes less than James did.
Corrado is a political ally of former Passaic County GOP Chairman Peter Murphy; she beat the organization candidate backed by the current chairman, Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-Wayne) in the primary. Murphy stepped up and delivered her a 79% win in Totowa, where he is the party leader. (Christie, who prosecuted Murphy on corruption charges when he was the U.S. Attorney, won 63% of the vote in Totowa.)
There is some speculation that Corrado/Murphy will retain Deputy County Clerk Peter Rendina, a Democrat with very close ties to the Pascrell faction of the party. If that happens, it might explain the drop-off between the gubernatorial and County Clerk race in Paterson and fuel talk among Passaic County Democrats that the Pascrell's — – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) and his son, Passaic County Counsel/lobbyist Bill Pascrell 3d – were firing a warning shot at their intra-party rival, Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie. Karen Brown, a Pascrell Democrat elected County Clerk in 2004, did not seek re-election after feuding with Currie for nearly her entire term.