Five mayoral races to watch today: Newark, Paterson, Trenton, Long Branch and West Orange

Voters in 33 towns will go to the polls today to elect municipal officials in non-partisan elections.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker is seeking a second term against three challengers, including Clifford Minor, a former municipal court judge and Essex County Prosecutor.  The real political theater in Newark today is the City Council races, where Team Booker is seeking to re-elect all nine incumbents.  One challenger is John Sharpe James, the son of Newark’s mayor from 1986 to 2006.

Eleven candidates are running for mayor of Trenton, where Douglas Palmer is not seeking re-election after twenty years in office.  No candidate is expected to win 50%, which means the two top vote getters are likely to compete in a June runoff election.  The leading candidates appear to be former Mercer County Freeholder Tony Mack, City Councilmen Manny Segura and Paul Pintella, Public Works Director Eric Jackson, and Freeholder Keith Hamilton.

In his bid for a sixth term, Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider faces tough challenge from City Councilman Brian Unger.  The race became more complicated late last week when convicted real estate developer Solomon Dwek, who has cooperated with the federal government on public corruption investigations, insinuated that he passed bribe money to Schneider through an intermediary.  Schneider has staunchly denied the allegations.  John Pallone, the brother of a popular local congressman, is seeking a Council seat; he is running independently of Schneider and Unger.

In West Orange, Assemblyman John McKeon is not seeking a fourth term as mayor.  McKeon and much of the Essex Democratic establishment is backing Councilman Robert Parisi against John Schmidt, a taxpayer watchdog and a registered Republican who won 45% against McKeon in 2006. 

Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith faces a challenge from Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone.  Chiappone was indicted last year on state corruption charges. 

Paterson Mayor Joey Torres is seeking a third term against two City Councilmen, Jeffrey Jones and Andre Sayegh

Voters will also elect mayors in Belleville, Bridgeton, Irvington, Jackson, Manchester and Ocean City.

Five mayoral races to watch today: Newark, Paterson, Trenton, Long Branch and West Orange