NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Incumbents won most of the local and county races in the 2016 general election, including longtime Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr.
Pallone has represented New Brunswick in Washington since 1991, and has been in Congress even longer, a fact that some consider a credit to the man’s service.
Still others, such as his most recently vanquished opponent, Brent Sonnek-Schmelz, criticize Pallone for occupying the same public position for so long.
“There are lots of congresspeople doing a wonderful job over a longer period of time, but too many have been there for too long,” Sonnek-Schmelz told PolitickerNJ.
But the majority of voters in Congressional District six, which includes portions of Monmouth and Middlesex Counties, didn’t see it that way, sending Pallone back to Washington for a fifteenth term by a wide margin.
As we reported previously, any opponent of Pallone’s will likely have an uphill battle as the district is gerrymandered, specifically drawn in such a way to have more Democrats than Republicans.
According to statistics from both counties, Pallone earned 164,368 votes compared to Sonnek-Schmelz’s 90,738.
But President-elect Donald Trump has promised to introduce term limits for members of Congress, a move that could make this Pallone’s last term in office.
TRUMP TO PROPOSE CONGRESSIONAL TERM LIMITS AMENDMENT
If Trump’s plan, which would require a Constitutional amendment gains traction, and is adopted into law, Pallone would likely be ineligible to run for a sixteenth term in 2018.
Pallone, who was been in Congress since 1989, won re-election handily here in a gerrymandered district that includes parts of Middlesex and Monmouth Counties. The final results show the voters wanted Pallone 164 to 90.
“I think term limits are a terrible thing,” Pallone told New Brunswick Today in an exclusive interview during the campaign. “Whether it’s Congress [or other elected offices], I think the longer you’re there, the more experience you have and if you’re attentive, the better off you are as an elected official.”
“That experience matters,” said Pallone. “I always worry that if you had term limits, you’d essentially be turning over the expertise to like a beaurocracy because the only people that would be there on a continuous basis would be the beaurocrats that work for the agencies or work for Congress… and the elected officials won’t even know what to do.”
“I think it really takes at least three terms–six years–before you really even know how to maneuver to get legislation passed.”
Trump has not indicated how many terms in office he would want to limit Congress, or if Senators will also be included.
COUNTY AND STATEHOUSE DEMOCRAT OFFICIALS WIN BIG
Meanwhile, Millie Scott, the county’s controversial Democrat sheriff, was re-elected with more than 175,030 votes, or 63% of the total votes cast for that position, according to the latest unofficial results.
She defeated Republican Peter “Pedro” Pisar, who pulled down just 104,408.
Likewise, her incumbent running mates on the Democrat ticket, Kenneth Armwood, Charles Kenny, and Blanquita Valenti also prevailed in the race over their Republican opponents.
The Democrat candidates received roughly between 161,000 and 166,000 votes each, while their Republican counterparts, Jimmy Hu, Joe Scillieri, and Kathleen Calabrese each got roughly 96,000 to 106,000 votes each.
Democrat officials also won races to keep their seats in the Statehouse, representing the 18th Legislative district.
State Senator Patrick Diegnan, a Democrat who was recently elevated from his position in New Jersey’s lower house, defeated Republican Roger Daley 62%-38%.
Meanwhile, newly-minted Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak will get to keep his seat after defeating his Republican opponent Camille Ferrero Clark by a 3:2 margin.
DIAZ ELECTED TO ANOTHER TERM AS BAY CITY MAYOR
Another big winner on election night was Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz, who was re-elected to a third term in that city’s highest office.
Nearly half of the voters in that city chose Diaz in the four-way race. She ended up with 5,925 votes, and a significant lead over her closest runner-up, Councilman Joel Pabon, who finished with 4,675. Miguel Nunez pulled down 1,534 votes, while Sharon Hubberman got 270 votes.
Diaz, who began her political career as a reformer, famous for ousting her corrupt, since-imprisoned predecessor eight years ago.
But Diaz has slowly become closer with the powerful Democratic political machine in Middlesex County during her first two terms in office.
Diaz opponents criticized her over land deals, the city’s water quality, and accused her of breaking her own promise to limit herself to two terms as Mayor.
New Jersey does not have term limits for any elected offices except Governor and Lt. Governor.
Perth Amboy, however, holds non-partisan elections though the Democratic Party is heavily involved in supporting certain candidates.
Diaz also saw her two City Council running mates, Fernando Irizarry and Jelmin Caba elected.
Perhaps most surprising of all, in an race where even the date of the election was the subject of a bitter dispute and court battle between Diaz’s City Hall and the entire Board of Education, with three candidates supported by the Mayor achieving victory on November 8, for the three Board of Education candidates she was backing.
Diaz’s team of Junior Iglesia, Tashi L. Vazquez, and Junior Iglesia defeated incumbents Samuel Lebrault, Israel Varela, and Anthony Bermudez in the hard-fought campaign.
As we reported the election had previously been scheduled for April 2016, then it was on for November 2016, then it was on for April 2017, until a questionable bill passed the State Legislature and was signed by Chris Christie, forcing the Board to hold the election in November.
The confusion deprived some potential candidates of the chance to run, but the race still saw eight candidates, including three incumbents file petitions to run.
NEW MAYORS CHOSEN IN SPOTSWOOD AND EAST BRUNSWICK
One of the few upsets in the county came in Spotswood, another town with non-partisan elections, where incumbent Mayor Nicholas Poliseno came in last place in a three-way race.
Edward T. Seely, who ran on the slogan “Experienced Leadership With Common Sense,” won the race with 1,563 votes.
Trailing behind Seely by a little under 400 votes was Jacqueline Palmer, whose slogan was “Leadership You Can Trust.”
Poliseno, who earned just 820 votes, ran on the slogan “Continued Leadership Putting Our Residents First”
In East Brunswick, Democrat Bradley Cohen defeated Republican Jim Wendell in the race to succeed Kevin McAvoy as the Township’s Mayor, by a vote of 11,105-9,555.
Piscataway re-elected their longtime Mayor, Democrat Brian Wahler, to another term in office that township’s highest office. He defeated Republican challenger Damon Montesano with a whopping 70% of the votes cast.
This will be Wahler’s fifth term as Mayor of Piscataway. He won the lopsided race with 13, 762 votes to Montesano’s 5,860.
In New Brunswick, three City Council seats were up for election, but only three candidates–all Democrats–opted to run for them.
The result is that Glenn Fleming and John Anderson will each get a second full term on the Council, and Planning Board Chairwoman Suzanne Sicora-Ludwig will join the Council for the first time in January.
Including mail-in ballots, the three candidates got between 7,500 and 7,700 votes each.
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.