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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The makeup of the city’s nine-member school board will remain unchanged after three incumbents bested four challengers in a historic election that saw 807 voters cast ballots.
It marked the first time Board of Education ballots included so many names, with four different challengers running against the establishment.
Despite the highest turnout since 2013—the first year the city held school elections—incumbents Edward Spencer, Diana Solis and Ronald Hush came out on top with just 463, 424, and 372 votes respectively.
“Thank you to EVERYONE who cared enough to make the time to vote in today’s Board of Education Election in New Brunswick,” reads a post on the Facebook page for their campaign organization: New Beginnings for New Brunswick Schools.
With the record-high number of candidates in the race, the 807 voters who cast ballots in this election was more than double the number who votedin the April 2017 election, which ended in a rare tie between two candidates.
The win effectively gives Spencer, the top vote-getter in the race and the city government’s Recreation Director, a ninth term on the board. He began serving in the position in 1994, back when the Mayor had the power to appoint school board members.
Jad Kaado, a former New Brunswick Today reporter, came in fourth place with 275 votes—just 98 shy of what would have been a historic upset—followed by his running mate Nancy Love with 240.
Since the school elections were instituted in 2013, no insurgent candidates have found a way to defeat the candidates backed by the powerful political machine led by seven-term Mayor Jim Cahill.
“Even though we did not win the election, Nancy Love and I accomplished a lot more during the process than we imagined,” Kaado wrote, citing the City Council’s decision to table an ordinance that would allow a real estate developer to avoid paying millions of dollars in school taxes.
“We aided in the prevention of a bad tax abatement that would have hurt our public school system, we increased voter turnout… and most importantly, we connected and worked with amazing people from our community, and different areas in the state, to build a movement that is beyond all of us.”
Jerry Mercado came in sixth place with 199 votes and Yesenia Medina-Hernandez came in seventh with 150.
Each of the seven candidates on the ballot prevailed in the voting in at least one of the city’s fourteen polling stations.
The establishment candidates were swept in thanks to strong wins at the two most popular voting locations, including a new polling place established for the first time this year at the Redshaw Elementary School.
Below are the results from the votes counted Election Day:
|Lord Stirling School||61||51||44||47||47||31||21|
|Board of Ed Office||38||34||31||9||11||13||12|
|Rutgers Labor Center||25||24||26||12||8||2||2|
|1st Reformed Church||16||15||11||11||12||6||6|
|Dept. of Public Works||4||3||5||6||4||4||10|
*does not include ten mail-in ballots and four provisional ballots
A ballot question asking voters to approve the annual school tax levy passed by a 4:1 margin, with 407 voters endorsing the school district’s proposed 2018-19 budget and just 103 opposing it.
In April 2019, three more seats will be up for election on the school board. Those seats are currently held by Patricia Sadowski, Benito Ortiz, and Jennifer Shukaitis.
Editor’s Note: The author of this article was a volunteer with the campaign of candidates Jad Kaado and Nancy Love.
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.