Long-time Mayor Nicholas Sacco and his entire ticket of town commissioners had no opposition. In North Bergen's form of government, a five-member board of commissioners is elected, and one of them also serves as mayor.
On Tuesday, Sacco was swept into his sixth term as a member of the Board of Commissioners and his fifth as mayor.
Fellow incumbents Frank Gargiulo, Theresa Ferraro, Hugo Cabrera, and Allen Pascual were also re-elected.
Sacco faces a steeper challenge in the Democratic primary to keep his seat as state Senator on June 5 (see last week's newspaper at www.northbergenreporter.com).
But Sacco and his runningmates still had a challenge last week: Try to get many of North Bergen's nearly 25,000 registered voters out to cast a vote for the incumbents, as a sign of solidarity and a job well done.
Hoping for 10,000
Sacco reiterated a total of votes that he had hoped to see and challenged his supporters to get out that number - namely 10,000. If he could collect 10,000 votes for the incumbents, it would be a reflection of how the township of North Bergen truly felt about him.
In the end, Sacco fell a little short of the goal. He collected 8,611 votes before any provisional or absentee ballots were tabulated by the Hudson County Clerk's office.
Still, Sacco felt the turnout was "unbelievable" for an uncontested election. He told an audience of supporters at Schuetzen Park that their hard work on Election Day was greatly appreciated.
The throng in the main ballroom might not have been as thick as it would have been on a normal election night, but they did stand in unison when Sacco took the podium to speak.
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, Assembly members (and current Democratic primary running mates) Joan Quigley and Vincent Prieto, and the other re-elected members of the Board of Commissioners offered their words of thanks and congratulations.
When Sacco grabbed the microphone, the scattered crowd stood and chanted, "Four more years, four more years," and applauded mightily for about three minutes.
"What we did today was challenge ourselves," Sacco said to the approximately 700 people in attendance. "We thought we could produce a number of votes, even under the conditions of an uncontested election. We looked at past records and thought we could get that number. Our people did an outstanding job of going out to pick up votes when you already knew it was won. In a sense, it becomes a harder Election Day than if there was opposition."
Added Sacco, "To get the number of votes we got is unbelievable."
DeGise, Quigley and Prieto also spoke.
"I have to get one of these non-opposition elections," said DeGise, who is facing a fight for re-election for county executive in the June 5 primary. "Congratulations to North Bergen. This is a great night, and it's great to be a friend of the Sacco administration."
Quigley recognized the tough fight in a non-contested election.
"I know that it's the toughest thing to do, trying to get people to come out when there's no battle," said Quigley, who appears on the Hudson County Democratic Organization ticket for the upcoming Democratic primary with DeGise, Sacco and Prieto. "This was an extraordinary effort. Let's have another victory party here June 5."
Gargiulo, who other than Sacco was the longest-running commissioner in terms of tenure, having been in office since 1989, called his runningmates, "the best team I've ever worked with."
"Very often in politics, you're put into situations with different people and you don't exactly see eye-to-eye," Gargiulo said. "In terms of togetherness and cohesiveness, these people are the best. It's a special kind of people who can run such a community. Unfortunately, it looks like we put about 1,000 people to bed early tonight."
Evaluating the results
After the speeches were completed and the campaign workers headed to the bar, Sacco took the time to evaluate the day's festivities.
"The number we set was so totally unrealistic," Sacco said. "It's a number we haven't seen in a general election with opposition. The goal was set and I think we sent the kind of message that North Bergen people come out to vote, even with no opposition. I don't think any organization in the state would have been able to get that kind of turnout with no opposition. You have to respect that."
Sacco was asked what are some of the priorities he now faces in the next four years. In fact, with all the proposed commercial and residential development and the major changes in the township's transportation infrastructure, it could turn out to be the most important term in Sacco's lengthy stay in office.
"It is definitely a critical time for the township," Sacco said. "There a lot of different things going on. I've always said that there are many things to do, and I want to leave this township better than what it was when I was first elected to office [in 1985]. As long as I'm challenged to make it better, I'll stay around."
First on the agenda
Sacco said that the first item on the agenda for the next four-year term will be the completion of the municipal swimming complex, slated to open next month.
"We're near the end of it now," Sacco said. "You can see it's going to happen now."
The pool complex is approximately 85 percent completed and everything is on target for a mid-June opening.
The next thing Sacco wants to see completed is the overpass at 69th Street and Tonnelle Avenue, an idea that has been in the works for six years now, but keeps getting delayed.
"I think it should start work later this year," Sacco said.
Next will be overseeing the completion of the construction along Tonnelle Avenue, the widening and restoration project that has caused major traffic headaches over the last six months.
Finally, Sacco wants to have a say in the commercial and residential development of the Hudson River waterfront, which keeps growing on a daily basis. There is also the commercial development on the Vornado property off Tonnelle Avenue and 91st Street, near the site of the former swimming pool complex.
"If we can do that and keep taxes stable, I will be happy," Sacco said.
Now, Sacco will turn his attention to the upcoming battle for the Democratic nomination for the State Senate seat in the 32nd District, a seat Sacco has occupied in Trenton since 1994.
"We'll ask all these people to take one-week rests and come back ready for another fight," Sacco said.
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org