"There are 39 districts," Sacco said. "So I figured the maximum to expect would be around 3,900. I was hoping to get anywhere between 2,000 and 3,900, somewhere in that range."
When the petitions were tabulated to be presented to township clerk Carol Fontana Tuesday so the entire Board of Commissioners could appear on the May 13 ballot, the final tally floored Sacco. His supporters had collected 4,600 signatures.
"I was very happy and gratified that the number of petitions was so high," Sacco said. "I think it's clearly a sign of voter and citizen satisfaction. I was told that the committeepeople said they could have collected more. It's not an easy task. It's very time-consuming, because each petition for each candidate is separate."
Sacco was asked if he was worried that there might be some political fallout after the recent corruption scandals that have captured the headlines for the past 18 months. Four former township employees, including a former commissioner, have pleaded guilty to corruption charges as part of the still-ongoing federal investigation into township corruption.
"There was no apprehension whatsoever," Sacco said. "People seem to be happy with the way the town is being run. They're very happy with the government. We've taken polls and our numbers show that people are not dissatisfied with what we've been doing."
Sacco ran unopposed the last time in 1999, but is expecting opposition this time around - which was confirmed late Thursday when a ticket headed by former deputy police director Joseph Marino and featuring long-time Sacco foes Edward "Bo" Scannavino and Denis Jaslow said they would file petitions to run against Sacco in the May election. (See sidebar.)
"Although we worked awfully hard the last time going door-to-door, having opposition is certainly more of a challenge," Sacco said. "It makes it more interesting."
Sacco said that he was thrilled to have his entire Board of Commissioners, namely Frank Gargiulo, Hugo Cabrera, Theresa Ferraro and Allen Pascual, back on board to run again as a unit.
"I'm very happy, but I don't think there ever was a discussion that they wouldn't run," Sacco said. "It didn't take much at all to convince them. We were all focusing on re-election, and when it came time to file, we went to work."
Sacco said that he hopes that there will be a carryover from November's special election, when Pascual defeated Scannavino by a 4-to-1 margin for the remainder of former Commissioner Peter Perez' term.
"I don't know if we can get any stronger," Sacco said. "We got 82 percent in that election. The best we ever did before that was around 70 percent. It showed us that people still had faith in their government. I believe they want to see the same thing again in May."
Although Sacco and his ticket, which will run under the banner of "Stable Taxes-Stable Neighborhoods," officially filed their petitions for re-election Tuesday, they will hold their first official campaign rally Thursday night (March 27) at Schuetzen Park, beginning at 7 p.m.
"By then, we'll know where we are on the ballot and we'll be able to announce that at the rally," said Sacco, who is inviting all supporters to attend.
Sacco said that he looks forward to getting elected for a sixth term as a commissioner and a fourth term as the township's mayor.
"We're always looking forward," Sacco said. "We still have a lot of work to do. I stand on my record. We have probably the best property tax record in Hudson County. We offer good programs for seniors and kids through a great recreation program. We've brought in a lot of commercial development and will continue to do so. We're working hard to make this town a better place."
Sacco has selected Rushabh "Rishi" Mehta to serve as the campaign manager. A native of Bombay, India, Mehta moved to North Bergen in 1986 and is an accountant.
"We are very honored to have Rishi Mehta as our new campaign manager," Sacco said. "He's an excellent public servant, community leader, family man and one of the township's leading citizens."
Mehta is a founding member and current President of IMPACT (Indo-American Political Action Committee), an organization active in the Northern New Jersey Indian Community. Mehta has organized fundraising activities for various Democratic candidates for federal, state and local elections. He has also worked on grassroots campaigns.
He was also a past committee member for the International Institute of New Jersey, also a nonprofit organization that assists immigrants with assimilation into their new communities by providing them with ESL classes, INS applications, citizenship classes and job opportunities.
A member of the Hudson County Planning Board, Mehta was also appointed a member of the Juvenile Conference Committee for North Bergen, Guttenberg and Hudson County by the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.
"It is an honor to be working with Mayor Sacco and the commissioners," said Mehta. "They have done so much for our community. Sacco's leadership along with his dedicated administration maintains an outstanding quality of life in North Bergen."