When John McKeon made his first bid for West Orange mayor in 1994, he lost to four-term incumbent Samuel Spina by a 52%-46% margin. McKeon won four years later when Spina stepped down. Now John Schmidt, who won 45% against McKeon in 2006, wants to follow the same plan: run once, lose, then run again and win.
Spina won for the first time in 1978 when he unseated one-term mayor William Cuozzi, a Republican who endorsed the Democratic slate in the Watergate year of 1974 and went on to distance himself from the GOP. That also happened with James Sheeran, a Republican who was mayor from 1958 to 1966. In the 1974 gubernatorial campaign, Sheeran endorsed Democrat Brendan Byrne, a West Orange resident, for governor; after the election, Byrne named him state Commissioner of Insurance. Schmidt is a registered Republican.
Spina was also a Democrat. In 1990, he beat Council President Anthony Minnitti, the nephew of Essex County GOP Chairman John Renna, by a 54%-46% margin.