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Montclair 2012 Sweeps Election With Robert Jackson Declared Mayor

The only exception was a win by Bill Hurlock in the first ward

 

Following a contentious and hard-fought race, Robert Jackson was declared the mayor of Montclair just before 10 p.m. on Tuesday night, garnering nearly half the total of 8,024 votes cast in the nonpartisan local election.

Jackson, who led the Montclair 2012 slate, received 3,842 votes compared with 2,508 for Karen Turner, of the Real Progress Montclair slate, and 1,676 for Harvey Susswein, of the For Montclair slate.

It was nearly a clean sweep for Montclair 2012, with Robin Schlager, Sean Spiller, Bob Russo, and Rich McMahon all racking up wins. The only exception was in the first ward, where newcomer Bill Hurlock beat Councilor Rich Murnick, who was running for re-election on the Montclair 2012 slate.

Surrounded by throngs of noisy supporters at Egan's, Jackson said that the win was "extremely gratifying" and the result of a clear campaign message.

"People understand that we have to have new streams of revenue in this town," said Jackson, who had hammered away at the theme of drawing more development to town during his campaign.

Jackson declared the dawn of both "a new Montclair and a new future" for the town and then joked that he first had to get some sleep the next few days before doing anything.

Jackson was mayor of Montclair in 1987 and 1988, and previously served as an at-large councilor. He's a graduate of Montclair Kimberley Academy, a trustee of the Montclair Public Library, and is the founder and managing member of Lorterdan Properties, LLC, a diversified real estate development company.

In the first ward, Hurlock of the For Montclair slate won with 1,195 votes, beating out Murnick's 924 votes.

"Incumbents don't win in Montclair," said a charismatic Murnick, who perhaps was too associated by wary voters with the outgoing council.

In the second ward, Schlager won over Walter Springer and Selma Avdicevic. In the third ward, Spiller beat out Chris Swenson and Jeff Jacobson.

Springer said Tuesday night that, when he started his campaign, he had expected to hear good things from people related to their hopes for the town.

"What I didn't expect was how contentious the race became but I guess that's the way it's played by certain people," he said.

The two successful at-large candidates were McMahon and former mayor Russo. They beat out LeeAnn Carlson, Peter Zorich, Patricia Hurt, Kathryn Weller-Demming, and Tim Barr.

Fourth Ward Councilor Renee Baskerville ran unopposed, but still picked up 888 votes.

To see all the results, go here.

Russo said he hoped that the town's residents could put aside their differences now that the election is over.

"I've never seen a race with such complexity," he said, noting that tonight's results respresent a tremendous win for Montclair's progressive forces.

Tuesday's vote will bring in some familiar faces—Jackson, Schlager, and Russo all have held office before—while ushering out incumbents Murnick and Deputy Mayor Weller-Demming, who had been running for an at-large position.

Earlier on Tuesday night, Mayor Jerry Fried was particularly prescient when he predicted that Jackson would win with 40 percent of the vote, and that Turner and Susswein would get 35 percent and 25 percent of the vote, respectively.

"I don't think Susswein's campaign was that effective," said Fried. "It's just that the mechanics weren't good."

He noted that, when it came to Turner, he hadn't met a single person planning to vote for her.

Fried and other town officials, as well as some candidates, began gathering at the township council chambers just after 8 p.m. on Tuesday to await results. Also on hand were Real Progress Montclair campaign manager Ilmar Vanderer, Fifth District Freeholder Brendan Gill, Councilor Nick Lewis, businessman Martin Schwartz, developer Dick Grabowsky, Councilor Renee Baskerville, and Township Attorney Ira Karasick.

Vanderer said that he had sensed a "promising positiveness" in the air earlier in the day, leading him to hope for a Real Progress Montclair win.

Officials originally predicted that turnout would total about 7,500 to 8,000 out of 27,000 registered voters and, in the end, more than 8,000 people cast ballots.

Four years ago, some 7,149 people voted out of 25,000 registered voters, representing a turnout of nearly 30 percent. Fried won the role of mayor with 2,849 votes.

Following a day filled with more promises, more accusations, and another avalanche of press releases, many Montclair residents said they're relieved to finally reach the finish line of the weeks-long election season.

Pollworkers across town reported heavy turnouts and—if today's article in the New York Times was any indication—there was widespread attention being paid in all corners of Montclair to the election results even by those residents who didn't vote.

Fried noted that a good turnout would translate into about 8,000 votes, which is exactly what happened.

Over the weekend, longtime resident Michael O'Leary said he was voting for Turner and her Real Progress Montclair slate because—for him—everything boils down to taxes.

"If people can't afford to live here then none of the other issues really matters," he said, adding that he believes Real Progress Montclair is the slate best equipped to get the town's finances in order.

But other residents questioned around town said they favored mayoral candidate Harvey Susswein and his For Montclair slate simply because Susswein seemed to keep himself above the fray of negative campaigning.

"I like the fact that you didn't hear a lot of negative stuff from this guy but you heard a lot about his experience," one voter said.

And one man, Tom Shields, said he was voting for mayoral candidate Robert Jackson, who is leading the Montclair 2012 slate, because he believes Jackson has the experience—and the background in real estate development—that's needed to get Montclair on solid economic footing.

The different slates had made different plans to celebrate—or drown their sorrows—at various establishments around town tonight.

The Real Progress Montclair slate gathered at Tierney's, accompanied by Zorich's mother, actress Olympia Dukakis. The For Montclair slate collected at the Station restaurant in Upper Montclair. And Montclair 2012 candidates chowed down on wings and burgers at Egan's.

Meanwhile, here's what happened earlier on this very frenetic election day, in case you missed something.

—Real Progress Montclair continued to operate a well-oiled PR machine, sending out a flood of press releases including a notice emailed just before 3 p.m. filled with promises to impose a moratorium on non-essential debt and provide online access for easy-to-read budgets if elected.

—After Baristanet reported that mayoral candidate Jackson and his Montclair 2012 slate were using paid workers from Newark to distribute campaign materials, Larry Kopp, campaign manager for the Real Progress Montclair slate, told Montclair Patch that "the political Essex County machine has landed in Montclair. They have workers from Newark on the streets of Montclair doing campaign work." Kopp said that the Montclair 2012 slate also has posted campaign signs—illegally—on school property.

—A voter reported feeling intimidated at Mount Hebron Middle School this morning by election challengers hired by Hurlock and also the Real Progress Montclair slate.

—Third ward candidate that today's New York Times article misstated the facts; but the New York Times reporter said she got it right.

—Save Our Schools Montclair released a

For those who haven't read it, the New York Times article focuses mostly on Turner.

The article cites a recent debate at which Turner was asked about scholarships that allow poor children to attend the Montclair Community Pre-K set up by the town 14 years ago.

The article says Turner praised it as the Rolls-Royce of programs but that she also wondered whether the town's money might have been better spent buying "20 families a Chevy."

The article goes on to say:

In this push for frugality is the national debate writ small: the town spent lavishly for years, going into debt to pay for things like shade trees and a $45 million LEED-certified school, and now residents are facing the bill.

Montclair is not the only place finding itself with a tax revolt as a result. But it ranks among the most unlikely.

“The most liberal town in America has a Tea Party faction,” marveled Cary Chevat, a local political activist.

Meanwhile, in election news from Monday, a dinnertime call to Montclair voters urged residents to make history by casting a vote for Turner so that she might become the first woman elected mayor in the town's history.

But residents emailed Montclair Patch to point out that Montclair had a woman mayor from 1980 to 1984 by the name of Mary Mochary. In 1980, Montclair switched from a five-member commission to a seven-member council. Mochary ran for the council and—out of 28 candidates in the nonpartisan municipal election—she received the most votes, leading to her selection as mayor.

In addition, the Montclair 2012 slate led by Jackson emailed out a press release on Monday that included an audio tape of Turner’s remarks at a Sept. 30, 2010 council meeting in which she questioned the need for the Montclair Public Library, arts programs and funding for shade trees. Listen to the audio here.

“The audio tape of Karen Turner in her own words should answer questions as to whether the Township Council Meeting minutes were taken out of context for use in the mailer,” a Montclair 2012 spokesperson said.

For her part, Turner and her Real Progress Montclair slate released a video interview (attached to this article) in which the candidate expresses her unequivocal support for libraries as well as other programs and institutions valued by the people of Montclair.

"I completely support the library," Turner said. "With the Junior League, I actually helped build a library at the Link School in Newark, so for people to say that I would not support a library is flabbergasting; its completely the opposite of what I'm about."

Turner's video was prepared over the weekend in anticipation of false representations of her service with Concerned Citizens of Montclair (CCM) and on the Township-apppointed Operating Budget Advisory Committee, (OBAC).

According to the RPM press release, Turner was nominated to OBAC by 4th Ward Councilor Renee Baskerville—one of the strongest library advocates on the current council.

"In the course of our discussions about town finances, our Committee discussed every aspect of the budget," Turner said. "At no time have I ever thought that we should close any libraries. In fact, it has been my belief from the beginning, that the size and scope of our library is of so much value that we should aggressively seek agreements with our neighbors to share our library and leverage regional consolidation fees."

Finally, the For Montclair slate remained fairly quiet. However, a supporter of the slate, Pegi Adam, expressed her disgust at the way certain campaigns had been run.

"I guess I'm naïve and expect local politics to be grassroots campaigns. But, I think it's really too bad that our community and community spirit is being exploited by two slates that are in the race to get elected at any cost (and according to published numbers, their costs are running pretty high). It's pretty obvious that this town council election is about everything BUT local community issues, because only Harvey Susswein's For Montclair slate has put any actual plans on their websites. No wonder people are confused. I've volunteered for town council campaigns as far back as Jim Bishop, in the 70s/early 80s, and I never heard of any campaign advisor being paid (although I have been told that Ted Mattox paid Henry deKoninck, but don't know that for a fact). Is this stuff the future of Montclair? If so, then let's not hold ourselves up as a model of community integrity. And, yes, I'm a supporter of Harvey Susswein and For Montclair."

Check Montclair Patch on Wednesday for more on Tuesday's election results and what they mean for the future of Montclair.

HCKid May 09, 2012 at 12:03 AM
First turner is a former CPA. Also your note is misleading and your link to the court case indicates that it was Mr. Jackson's firm that initiated the lawsuit and that the JW has filed a counter-suit. The article you link to also shows that it was most likely the JW that acted in bad faith and that Jacksons firm would prevail.
HCKid May 09, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Adam - I call bullshit and unsubstantiated drivel from a HACK.
ride164 May 09, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Like I said before...carpetbaggers......unaware that we had a woman mayor in the 80's...can't they just move back to brooklynn and let us common folk be......
Dan May 09, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Once again, a truly pathetic showing by the voters today. 6k votes counted thus far, I guess 75% of the taxpayers can shut their mouths for the next 4 years.
D-Zone May 09, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Renter: "ummm....have lived here for 4 years-attended MSU prior to that and grew up in NJ. Transplant, think not. My point here is that everyone should better behaved, DZ" Did you know MSU (formerly MSC) is the 4 year of the 2 year ECC? As Rodney King stated: "Can't we just get along".
Tell it Straight May 09, 2012 at 03:00 AM
In true RPM fashion, not one of them showed up at Egan's to congratulate the Jackson slate. They ran a class warfare campaign and the good people of Montclair saw thru it, and spoke. Terry Gorman and Andrew, i will miss you. You were both so completly obtuse. Turner, Swenson and company, good bye and farewell. Y RPM......RIP
Crafty Spiker May 09, 2012 at 03:01 AM
It is a sad time when there is no point in being right. And so it goes.
Robert Cohen May 09, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Well... here we go again, another group of officials who are unable to say no. It's as if everyone in this town lives in a bubble. Witness the Park St. project which went ahead despite every indication that it was a total waste of money. Bankruptcy is not far off... mark my words.
Melissa May 09, 2012 at 03:15 AM
Dan, I couldn't agree more--a seemingly intelligent and engaged town, yet far less than half went to the polls. Disheartening, to say the least. I am embarrassed for residents who whine and complain but remain shockingly uninvolved.
Shelley Emling (Editor) May 09, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Thanks for your earlier comment Right of Center...
Shelley Emling (Editor) May 09, 2012 at 03:38 AM
I agree Melissa..
OMG Montclair May 09, 2012 at 04:40 AM
Peter Zorich to his credit did show up and congratulated the winners as did Harvey Susswien and Weller
Stuck in the Middle May 09, 2012 at 05:01 AM
"Incumbents don't win in Montclair," said Murnick. Well, not after they screw the pooch, like this last council.
Ron Mullen May 09, 2012 at 11:55 AM
As Montclair's inability to deal with our debt has turned it into the "Little Greece" of New Jersey. The winner should have the courage to create a Strong Austerity program by aggressively cutting taxes and programs for at least two years.
Terry Gorman May 09, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Tell it Straight, It is no surprise to me that you show the same level of class in victory as you showed in all of your posts while waging your battle. That is none. To Robert Jackson and the Montclair 2012 slate; Congratulations on your victory. I sincerely hope that you spend the next four years proving me wrong and are able to get this town on the right track by implementing your platform. Good Luck.
David Delmonico May 09, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Yet another nail in the coffin for Montclair. Call when you're up for auction. Montclair is a wonderful example of why we need Conservatives in power. You have piled up debt on debt with no clear way to pay for your extravagant and selfish spending. Has anyone examined the INCREDIBLE waste that exists in Montclair's sacred school system? Someone should use it as the topic of their next documentary film for next years Montclair Film Festival...if there is a second edition.
David Grill May 09, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Shelley, Really nice job covering a complex and sometimes crazy election. And.....TGIW.
Shelley Emling (Editor) May 09, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Thanks David.. it was a crazy election.. thx for all your hard work.
A. Gideon May 09, 2012 at 01:20 PM
"To Robert Jackson and the Montclair 2012 slate; Congratulations on your victory. I sincerely hope that you spend the next four years proving me wrong and are able to get this town on the right track by implementing your platform. Good Luck." Very well stated, and I share the sentiment. I'll also continue to be doing what I can to help the town. I'll be posting in these social media forums, of course, but you'll also continue to see me at Hillside and Nishuane PTA and BOE meetings. I hope the real people that started participating here because of the election also "stay". Once the hired slate proxies disappear - and they always do - these blogs are not a bad way to stay connected and informed. But also remember that there are plenty of "real world" ways to get involved: groups working for the township or the schools or the libraries. ...Andrew
professorishor May 09, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Ridicule and innuendo should subside now that votes are in. If we'd like bigger turnouts, move town elections to November and end the fake "non-partisan" slate-making. Voters are used to voting in November; they pay attention then; off-cycle elections always have low turnouts; best for civic democracy is high voter involvement, which means moving elections in tune with historic habits, that is, we vote in November. Also, the so-called "non-partisan" combos that weirdly emerge at the last minute undermine the legitimacy of town elections. Only slates can get elected and incumbents are poison, so the wisdom goes. But most candidates are indeed on slates and are not incumbents, yet non appear as who they are, for the parties they belong ti. Everyone is a make-believe non-partisan candidate while everyone has a real political affiliation that remains hidden, insider knowledge. The more civic life depends on "insider knowledge" and "insider membership" the less it appeals to the vast majority who are "outsiders," who are not part of the insider circle that runs this town. We deserve grown-up democracy in town instead of these juvenile ploys of insiders pretending to be non-partisan. Let Republican, Conservative, and Democratic Pary advocates run openly, and let independents run their own alternative campaigns as genuine independents. Then, most Mtc voters will have something real to vote for, and will come out to vote in large numbers if allowed to do so in November.
Robin Hoffman May 09, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Get some rest, Shelley. You kicked butt and seemed to be everywhere. Patch got a mention from Brendan Gill last night on Channel 34, along with Montclair Times and Baristanet, citing how much coverage there was around this election.
Selma Avdicevic May 09, 2012 at 03:21 PM
The voters have spoken. Congratulations to all the winners. I wish them all the best. Thanks everyone who supported me. I know you are disappointed. I am too. Please continue your involvement in the community. Volunteer, come to the Council/BOE/commissions/boards meetings, be heard. The work continues.
Peter Zorich May 09, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Telling it not straight. I went and congratulated all the winners.
Shelley Emling (Editor) May 09, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Thanks Peter and Selma..
mark haefeli May 09, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Sorry. My comment on the Junior League was inaccurate and uninformed...my apology...
steve jones May 09, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Please stay involved. I heard many people comment on how impressed they were with your views. You may not have had the face value recognition or connections in the community of some others and I'm sure that didn't help. We need more smart well-intentioned people like you involved in our town.
steve jones May 09, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Oh please. Good to know that our massive federal debt didn't increase under Conservative republican leadership.
mark haefeli May 09, 2012 at 11:36 PM
If any of my comments were offensive, uninformed, or misleading, i do apologize. Congratulations again to all who involved themselves in the process, especially those who ran for office. It was comforting to see so many candidates and supporters navigating along the high road on their race to the finish line ! Such political perfection was admirable. Such truth and fair play was inspiring. My comments...? Please, at least i can say, sorry !
Peter Zorich May 10, 2012 at 10:51 AM
Congratulations to Robert Jackson and the rest of the Montclair 2012 slate. They a have tough job ahead and I will certainly be rooting for them.
Selma Avdicevic May 10, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Thank you, Steve. It takes a lot more than loosing an election to throw me off the scent :)

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