On Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Jerry Fried predicted that mayoral candidate Robert Jackson would win the local election with 40 percent of the vote. He predicted that Karen Turner would come in second with 35 percent and that Harvey Susswein would come in third with 25 percent.
On Tuesday night, Jackson, a former mayor leading the Montclair 2012 slate, did even better than Fried had anticipated, raking in 3,878 votes, or 48 percent. Turner received 2,516 votes, or 31 percent, and Susswein received 1,682 votes.
On Wednesday afternoon, Fried—who was campaign manager for Deputy Mayor Kathryn Weller-Demming—chatted with Montclair Patch about the election and reflected on the various campaigns.
Q) What's your overall feeling today about how the election turned out?
A) I woke up this morning and was as happy as on any morning waking up as mayor of Montclair. Everyone who I'd hoped would win did win with the exception of Kathryn. I think she had an incredibly difficult fight. To try to run as an at-large candidate, when you are working full time and have two kids under the age of 4, is extremely hard. You basically need to be out there knocking on every door in Montclair.
Q) What do you think it was about Jackson's campaign that resonated with voters?
A) I think it was about the candidates. If anyone saw the debates or discussions ... I think Jackson had a very positive message and I think he also has a great mind, obviously. He articulates a positive message about where Montclair is headed and should be headed. I think that resonated with people. I also think he had a strong slate with him. He had a variety of people running on his slate.
Q) What were voters most concerned about during this campaign season?
A) For as long as I've been here people have always been concerned about taxes. We have a problem in New Jersey in that virtually all of our education is paid for in most places through property taxes. In Montclair nearly 60 percent of your tax bill goes to education. It's something in the structure of New Jersey governance ... there's almost nothing you can do about it. You can move the needle by getting more commercial ratables, as Jackson talks about ... you can move the needle by doing more shared service agreements and by having as efficient a government as possible.
But the lion's share still goes to education and I don't think anyone has found a magic bullet for making education good and cheap for a diverse population.
I feel like my greatest contribution has been with this school board. All the candidates in this election support the work it is doing which is great.
Q) So people remain mostly concerned about taxes, which is what Turner's Real Progress Montclair slate focused on?
A) What I heard from voters was a much more clear understanding of what is happening in Montclair, which you might not assume to be the case if you read the literature from Real Progress Montclair. The graphs on their literature were inaccurate and deceptive. For example, the capital spending increases they cited were not accurate. Our last four years have not been a mirror of what happened during the four years before or the four years before that. We've actually added nothing to the debt.
I think the important thing is that voters understand that the doomsday scenarios and the pattern of reckless government being portrayed by Real Progress Montclair was, in fact, not an accurate picture of what the last four years have been like. In fact, the opposite is true. We cut capital spending and we cut municipal spending. We made permanent a large share of debt to lock in low interest rates. We did shared services agreements with things like uniform construction code as well as locking in the [fire services] contract with Glen Ridge.
The truth unfortunately could not easily get out there when two out of the three slates were painting a picture that was inaccurate.
Those who call themselves fiscal conservatives should have celebrated what we did the last four years. They didn't celebrate it but painted an inaccurate picture of what we did. I think that is confusing and remains confusing. But what the voters undrestaood is that Jackon's message and the slate he put together offered a vision of a more sustainable future for Montclair. I think they will continue the reforms we've been doing the last four years.
The voters chose wisely. I woke up very happy this morning with what the voters did.
Q) Did anything surprise you about the election?
A) The real surprise in the whole election was [third ward council seat winner] Sean Spiller. It's true that he ran with a strong slate [Montclair 2012] and that there were some coattails there. But for him to win as a relatively new resident of Montclair is a really positive sign. Chris Swenson is a good guy and I have a lot of respect for him. But I think running with the Real Progress Montclair slate really hurt him. Sean ran a very hard and strong campaign and was out knocking on a lot of doors. He showed people he was willing to work hard and that he's a really smart guy.