The Democratic tidal wave that carried Robert Menendez to a big win in the United States Senate race and Albio Sires to the U.S. Congress had a ripple effect in Guttenberg, where two Democratic town council candidates easily trounced their Republican opponents by a 3-to-1 margin.
In Guttenberg’s form of government, the council has five members, including the mayor. Two seats were up for election this year.
Incumbent Councilman Frank Criscione and running mate Donna Florio, a former long-time Democratic committeewoman, rolled to victory Tuesday night, each gaining a new four-year term on the council.
Guttenberg has approximately 11,000 residents and is only two-tenths of a square mile in size.
Newcomer Florio, a teacher’s aide in Anna L. Klein School, gained the highest vote total, collecting 1,298 votes – even more votes than Menendez garnered in the town.
Criscione, who will begin his third term as a councilman, had 1,248 votes.
In comparison, Republican candidates Vasilios “Bill” Scoullos and Slava Lerner had 476 votes each. There were no write-in votes and no pending absentee ballots.
Great day for new councilwoman
Florio was ecstatic to have won by such a wide margin in her first attempt at public office. She will replace outgoing Councilwoman Jennifer Credidio, who decided not to seek re-election, when she takes the oath of office on New Year’s Day.
“I can’t wait to be sworn in and take over,” Florio said. “I knew we would do well, but I didn’t think I’d be able to pull as many votes as I did. I’m very pleased.”
Florio said that she was particularly pleased with the results in the town’s 5th District, where she collected 158 votes to the opponents’ 89. These results were in the district where Scoullos resides.
“That was a good sign for me,” Florio said.
Mayor David Delle Donna, who obviously supported the two Democratic candidates, was pleased that his colleagues won by such a wide margin.
“I think it’s becoming common practice,” said Delle Donna, who won by a similar margin in the November, 2005 municipal election. “Like they did in every race, the Republicans didn’t give the people anything to vote for. They just seemed like they wanted to attack. The opposition doesn’t get the picture that our candidates are better suited to serve on the council.”
Issues to address
Now that Delle Donna has a steady and stable council in place for the next three years, he believes the time has come to start addressing some pending issues in the town.
For one, the council will now address the need to build a new community center in the town. It’s been an ongoing battle since the old community center was declared unsafe due to asbestos contamination nearly six years ago.
“We can’t continue forever without a community center,” Delle Donna said. “We need a community center.”
Delle Donna said that the council will explore the possibilities of building a new center/gymnasium on a parcel of land located at 68th Street and Hudson, directly adjacent to Klein School.
The Board of Education already owns two buildings at the site, one of which has been recently vacated and is scheduled to be razed.
“If we can get the other property on the corner, then we would have enough space, like 155 feet by 200 feet, to put the building there,” Delle Donna said. “It would be dual use between the town and the school. We plan on putting small instructional rooms that will cut down on the school’s overcrowding and a stage for performing arts. It would give us the community center we lost and give the school a new gymnasium. A new gym would also greatly enhance our recreation program.”
Delle Donna said by designating the site as mixed use, they can apply for state funding to help with the cost.
Delle Donna said that the town will move forward with the plans of building a new passive park on River Road, adjacent to the Bulls’ Ferry luxury housing complex.
Delle Donna said, “We received $155,000 from Green Acres funds.”
Lerner, who was also a political newcomer, wasn’t discouraged by his first attempt at running for office.
“I’m not disappointed,” Lerner said. “In fact, I was very encouraged. I think the majority of people voted with their hearts and voted against George Bush. But without campaigning heavily, I got almost 500 votes. I was disappointed at first, but then I realized I got more votes in Guttenberg than Tom Kean.”