NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—At least four Middlesex County towns are poised to elect new Mayors on November 7, while another eight incumbent Mayors here will be seeking re-election that same day.
Nearly half of the county’s 25 municipalities will have Mayor elections on the ballot, though some contests are more competitive than others. In each case, four-year terms are at stake.
However, in five Middlesex County communities, voters will only have one choice for Mayor on their ballots, rendering the contest somewhat anticlimactic.
Voters in Old Bridge, Sayreville, South River, and Middlesex Borough will almost definitely be electing new Mayors, as the incumbent officials there have chosen not to run again.
Both of the major parties will face off in contests for the Mayor positions in Woodbridge, Monroe, Highland Park, Milltown, and Jamesburg. In each, Democrats are the ones seeking re-election, while Republicans are aiming to pull off an upset.
In Sayreville, a former Republican Mayor is seeking to return to the borough’s highest office. There, Kennedy O’Brien is facing Democrat Bill Henry after Democrat incumbent Victoria Kilpatrick, who has been at odds with some leaders in her party, decided not to seek re-election.
When Kilpatrick won the office four years ago, her margin of victory was just three votes, 3,929-3,926, showing that both of the two major parties can pull off a victory.
Kilpatrick isn’t the only Middlesex County Mayor forgoing re-election, despite a system that favors incumbents and includes no term limits.
Instead of seeking re-election, Republican Old Bridge Mayor Owen Henry is running for a seat in the State Senate, setting up a showdown to replace him among members of the Township Council.
Republican Councilwoman-at-large Debbie Walker and Democrat First Ward Councilwoman Jill DeCaro are facing off to decide who takes over the Township’s top position, in another of the few communities here where partisan elections are competitive.
As we reported, a close primary election knocked South River Mayor John Krenzel out of the race. Krenzel has thrown his support behind Councilman Peter Guindi in the upcoming general election, where Guindi faces off with Democrat Shawn Hausserman.
Krenzel, who is finishing up his third term, had previously won the office with 53% of the vote in 2011, 51% in 2015, and 54% in 2019.
Other Mayor elections are not as exciting.
Dunellen voters are likely to return Republican Jason Cilento to the Mayor’s Office, given he is the only candidate on the ballot there, and citizens in neighboring Middlesex Borough will have only one choice for their Mayor: Republican Councilman Jack Mikolajczyk.
Meanwhile Helmetta’s independent incumbent Chris Slavicek will be the only Mayoral candidate on ballots in the county’s least populated municipality.
New Brunswick does not have another scheduled Mayor election until 2026, but three neighboring municipalities currently are holding elections for their Mayor positions.
In Highland Park, Acting Mayor Elsie Foster, a Democrat, is being challenged by Republican Leora Wenger, who won her party’s primary election this June by write-in votes after no Republicans filed petitions to run in the election.
Conversely, Foster prevailed in her party’s primary by a vote of 1,466-878, defeating Board of Education member Monique Coleman, who was making her second bid for Mayor there.
Foster had risen to the office of Mayor not by election, but rather through a vote of her colleagues on the Borough Council, after the elected Mayor resigned late last year.
In Franklin Township, located in Somerset County and bordering New Brunswick, the former Republican Mayor Brian Levine is challenging incumbent Democrat Phil Kramer.
Levine left the Mayor job to become a Somerset County Freeholder almost a decade ago, and he has mounted unsuccessful campaigns for State Senate in 2013 and for New Jersey Governor in 2021.
A Councilman at the time, Kramer won his first Mayor election in 2015, defeating Levine’s successor with 61% of the vote, and Kramer was re-elected in 2019 with 73% of the vote.
Meanwhile, North Brunswick Democrat Mayor Francis “Mac” Womack is seeking a sixth term as the Township’s top official, and he will face no opposition on this year’s ballot.
Similarly, Metuchen Mayor Jonathan Busch will face no opposition and is expected to win a second term. Both times, Busch faced no opposition in the general election.
Monroe voters will decide between Democrat incumbent Steve Dalina and Charles DiPierro, a Republican Councilman. Four years ago, then-Mayor Gerald Tamburro defeated DiPierro 7,646-6,945 in a hotly-contested race.
Longtime Woodbridge Mayor Jon McCormac will face a familiar foe in John Vrtaric, a Republican salon owner who often challenges Democrats in local elections. In 2015, McCormac secured 83% of the vote to defeat Vrtaric in one of the county’s most populated towns.
In another 2015 re-match, Jamesburg’s incumbent Democrat Mayor Marlene Lowande faces Republican Thomas Gibbons, who she defeated by a vote of 453-385. In 2019, Lowande had no opponent in the general election.
In Milltown, incumbent Democrat Trina Mehr and Republican George Murray will face off. Mehr became Mayor after winning her 2019 election by a vote of 1,224-890.
Each of the towns electing Mayors will also have some number of seats on their governing bodies up for election simultaneously, though many of those races are not contested.
Voters in Edison, Carteret, South Plainfield, Plainsboro, and Cranbury will elect members to their governing bodies. Of those, only Edison and Cranbury have contests.
Citizens in Plainsboro and Cranbury do not directly elect their Mayors. Rather, the members of the governing body select from among themselves who takes on the role.
In Plainsboro, Peter Cantu is seeking re-election. Cantu has held the office of Mayor of Plainsboro in six different decades: first from 1977-1983, then from 1987-1991 and finally from 1993-present, serving for more than 40 years total.
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.