Voters in several municipalities, including Secaucus, will go to the polls for Democratic and Republican Party primaries Tuesday, June 8.
In Secaucus, registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters can select the three candidates they want to run in the fall general election, although only one of the town’s three municipal wards will have a competitive race.
The Secaucus Democratic Committee has nominated a slate that includes 1st Ward candidate Robert Zych, a former Secaucus police officer; businesswoman and 2nd Ward candidate Nancy Mateo; and former Board of Education Trustee Mark Bruscino, running for 3rd Ward.
Zych and Mateo are running unopposed. There is a competitive race in the 3rd Ward, however.
Party primaries will be held Tuesday, June 8.
Republicans on the ballot
There won’t be a Republican Party primary for Town Council this year since no Republican candidates filed to run for the local governing body.
Republicans in Secaucus can, however, vote for GOP candidates running in other races. Republicans Michael Agosta, Sergey Shevchuk, and John Aslanian are running for Congress in the 9th District. The winner of this primary race will challenge Democratic incumbent Steve Rothman, who is up for reelection.
There’s also a Republican primary for Hudson County Sheriff. Incumbent Juan Perez switched parties to run for reelection as a Republican. He’s being challenged by fellow Republican and Secaucus resident Christian Araujo.
The winner of this contest will face Democrat Frank Schillari, another Secaucus resident, in November. Schillari is running unopposed in the Democratic primary for this office.
Action in Ward 3
Because the only competitive municipal race this year is in the 3rd Ward, that’s where the candidates have spent most of their time.
Last week Bruscino said Zych, Mateo, and Secaucus Democratic Committee Chairman Vincent Prieto have been helping him campaign throughout the 3rd Ward.
“I’m the only one being challenged at this point,” Bruscino said. “So I’m the one that they’re helping the most. Right now they’re putting their efforts into my election.”
He said he has been out knocking on doors in the ward with Prieto, a Secaucus resident who is also a state assemblyman for the 32nd District.
A native of Secaucus, Bruscino, 46, previously served one term on the Secaucus Board of Education. He works for the Board of Education in Kearny as an administrator, a position he believes would help him address the needs of the 3rd Ward and the rest of Secaucus.
“Money is scarce, so we need to find more state and federal grants to cover our needs,” he said. If elected, he added, “I hope to look for grants and other resources that are out there that can help the community.”
Bruscino also wants to propose ways to ease traffic congestion in his ward.
Makarski has also been out knocking on doors. Last week he said his goal was to visit each home in the 3rd Ward at least once by primary day. He estimated he has visited about 80 percent of the residences there so far.
“Running off the [Democratic] line, I’m running as the underdog,” Makarski, 24, said. “There’s no question there. From a campaign perspective, I really have to give people a reason why they should come off the Democratic line and support me. So, it’s a challenge. But my reception has been very good, especially among voters who would typically vote in a primary race.”
Makarski has campaigned on ways the town could save money by streamlining government and making more services and resources available online. For example, he’d like residents to be able to pay fines and access forms and records online. Such technology, he told the Reporter last month, “could help us see some cost savings...and it’s also more environmentally conscious.”
He believes his platform will resonate with voters in Harmon Cove and Xchange at Secaucus Junction, the town’s two biggest residential developments, which both happen to be located in the 3rd Ward.
But Bruscino isn’t worried about the competition.
“Mike is a fine young man,” Bruscino noted. “But I think I’ll do just fine against Mike.”
Repeat of 2009?
Since Mateo has no competition in the primary, it will be months before it’s clear whether a pending criminal complaint against her will impact her race for council.
A co-owner of the bar Fifth & Front, Mateo’s business partner, Laura Maffei, has alleged that Mateo stole about $30,000 from the business, according to court documents. The Hudson County prosecutor downgraded the case and remanded it to the Secaucus Municipal Court after investigating the matter. (The municipal court has jurisdiction over criminal cases involving alleged thefts of $500 or less, according to the prosecutor.) The matter was never referred to a grand jury.
The July 2009 corruption bust of former Mayor Dennis Elwell torpedoed the Democratic ticket last fall after a slate of Independents made ethics the centerpiece of its campaign. Some observers have suggested the Democrats could be in for a repeat this year.
But Mateo and her allies don’t believe Maffei’s allegations will hurt her.
“That’s a personal issue between [Mateo and Maffei],” Prieto said recently. “So that should have no bearing [on the election] whatsoever, because anything that you would hear right now is going to be hearsay from one person or another.”
Bruscino agreed, adding the case won’t hurt his race or Zych’s.
“I think that’s a personal issue that Nancy needs to work through,” he said, “and I don’t think it will affect the ticket at all.”
Winners face Indies in fall
Since they are running unopposed, Zych and Mateo are guaranteed victories on June 8. Their campaign season will kick into high gear after the primary.
Zych, Mateo, and whoever wins the Bruscino-Makarski matchup will challenge a slate of Independent candidates backed by Mayor Michael Gonnelli.
Current Town Councilman Gary Jeffas is running for reelection in the 1st Ward on the Independent ticket. Jim Clancy, who was selected in January to serve out the remainder of Gonnelli’s term as 2nd Ward councilman, will run for a full-term, also as an Independent. Former Board of Education Trustee Susan Pirro, who ran in the Democratic primary for council last year, recently joined Gonnelli’s Independents as the 3rd Ward candidate.
It remains to be seen whether incumbent 3rd Ward Councilman John Shinnick, a Democrat that the Secaucus Democratic Committee chose not to support, will run as an Independent as well.
Independent candidates do not participate in the party primaries. They file petitions to run in June and compete only in the November general election.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.