NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The joint campaign committee for Mayor Jim Cahill and his two running mates has raised $90,400 so far, according to their latest required report.
Cahill is likely to run unopposed for an unprecedented seventh term as mayor this fall, in part thanks to his sizable campaign warchest.
Among the more surprising names to appear on the campaign finance reports were Mario Vargas and Jun Choi.
Choi, a one-term Mayor of neighboring Edison Township, gave $1,000 from his own campaign fund to support Cahill’s re-election to an unprecedented seventh term.
Choi upset the Middlesex County political machine in 2005, but was ousted from the Mayor job after losing the support of the Edison Demcoratic Organization in his 2009 re-election effort.
Choi had been interested in running for US Congress until the redestricting process that takes place every 10 years moved his hometown into a different Congressional district in 2011, when he began taking a hiatus from politics.
Vargas is the former head of the city’s Puerto Rican Action Board (PRAB), but as we reported in September, he quietly left after being at the center of an internal sexual harrassment investigation.
Vargas wrote a $500 check to the mayor’s campaign on May 15.
The campaign finance reports list his job as an “insurance agent” with Farmers Insurance in Parsippany. Vargas remains on the Board of Directors for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, one of the most powerful institutions in New Brunswick politics.
Vargas also serves on the board of the School Development Authority, which supervises public school construction at the state level. A state website still links to a document describing Vargas as the Executive Director of PRAB.
Cahill’s running mates, who are seeking re-election to the City Council, include PRAB worker Rebecca Escobar and Kevin Egan, an employee of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. All three opted to pool their resources in a single campaign fund: Cahill Escobar Egan 2014.
Both Egan and Escobar joined the ticket for the first time in 2010, after Cahill’s longtime running mates stepped down.
Previously, Cahill ran with Egan’s father Joe, who continues to serve in the NJ State Assembly, and Blanquita Valenti, who continues to represent Middlesex County as an elected Freeholder.
According to state records, the top two donors to the Cahill Escobar Egan team were corporations.
Hatch Mott MacDonald, a national engineering firm that works for the city, each gave $2,500.
Among their many contracts with the city, the firm provides support services for the city’s embattled Water Utility, which admitted in November it had been falsifying records for over three years.
The utility failed to notify residents when they should have been boiling their water at least six times, according to a public notice.
Construction Management Associates, a developer that has built close to a dozen buildings in New Brunswick during Cahill’s administration and is pushign hard to build a controversial project on Mine Street also gave $2,500.
Leonardo-based AJD Construction gave $1,250 to the team’s re-election, as did Ed Marko the owner of Monroe-based EJM Services Group.
Among the seven individuals who gave $1,000 were City Councilwoman Elizabeth “Betsy” Garlatti, Planning Board Attorney Ben Bucca, Abundant Life Family Worship Center preacher George Searight, Jay Cornell of the engineering firm CME Associates, and two landlords that have been building apartments in town: Michael Sisler and Francisco Garcia.
In addition to Choi’s campaign fund, the Corona Bar & Restaurant on French Street, and Clarkin & Vignuolo PC, a Piscataway-based law firm that often represents developers at the Zoning and Planning Boards kicked in $1,000 to the cause.
Three politically-connected attorneys wrote checks for $750 each: City Attorney William Hamilton, Parking Authority attorney Leonard Bier, and Lori Dvorak, former law partner of ex-Mayor John Lynch.
County Counsel Thomas Kelso, who also serves as Cahill’s personal campaign treasurer gave $500. So did his law partner Patrick Bradshaw.
Joe Catanese, a former Police Director who serves as the treasurer for Cahill Escobar Egan 2014, gave $500 of his own, as did his law partner TK Shamy, who also doubles as an assistant city attorney and Chairman of the New Brusnwick Democratic Organization.
Also in the $500 donation category were the city’s Planning Director, Glenn Patterson, Parking Authority Director Mitch Karon, Police Director Anthony Caputo, NBPD Captain Joseph Miller, Mayor’s aide Claribel Azcona-Barber, and Robert Adochio, one of the city’s municipal court proseuctors.
A mysterious company SAH Inc. gave $600. One union, the NJ Building & Trades Council, made the list of reported donations with a $500 gift.
According to state law only donations $300 or larger require reporting. The campaign claimed that it received $39,600 in small donations so far this year.
In total, forty companies and individuals made donations of $500, the lowest amount that appeared on the list, including city police officers and firefighters, the men who lead the New Brunswick Parking Authority and St. Peter’s Healthcare Systems, among others.
Business owners in this category included Olde Queens Tavern, and the owners of Foodtown, Steakhouse 85, Kelly’s Korner, El Rancho Bar & Grill, Gambino’s Inn.
Several real estate interests also chipped in including Peter Camamis of Camamis Properties, Daniel Paulus of Wick Companies, and Recon Services LLC, a company recently approved to build an apartment building in the city’s Sixth Ward.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.