Bergen County Freeholder James Tedesco, a Democrat, tonight defeated incumbent Republican Bergen County Executive Kathe Donovan in arguably the most closely watched contest in the state.
Donovan conceded the election to her rival around 9:15 p.m.
Tedesco pulled off the win despite the GOP trying to capitalize on voter backlash against Democratic President Barack Obama.
Early returns showed strong results for Tedesco in South Bergen.
“What I am seeing is I am seeing South Bergen trending strongly for James Tedesco,” state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36) said at around 8:30 p.m. “Tedesco beat [Kathe] Donovan by 400 votes in Wood-Ridge. That’s a town that Donovan won by 250 votes in 2010.”
Donovan is from South Bergen.
At that point, the results from big towns were still not conclusive.
At 8:55 p.m., Bergen County Republican Organization (BCRO) Chairman Bob Yudin told PolitickerNJ that with 47% of the votes in, Donovan was down by 5,000 votes.
“We just don’t know yet,’ the veteran chairman said.
But the trend held up, with Tedesco widening his lead as the vote totals piled.
Internal polling over the last month showed the Democratic challenger chopping into a Donovan lead.
Both sides said the contest was pick ’em at the start of the week, with Tedesco bucked by the endorsement of the Bergen Record.
Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato started hugging people at 9 p.m.
The race represented a big win for Stellato – the biggest of his career as chairman.
Throughout the last month of the campaign, sources scratched their heads in bewilderment over the trajectory of the Donovan Campaign, which never appeared to cohere as Tedesco organized and took advantage of dynamics such as Cory Booker’s presence on the Democratic ticket as the party’s nominee for U.S. Senate and aggressive challenge of U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5) by Bergen-based Democrat Roy Cho.