BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Councilman Craig S. Pastore and his running mate Michael D'Aquila defeated their Democrat opponents Bill Machado and Rina Franchino - but the race was a lot closer than many expected.
Pastore received 1,076 votes, D'Aquila 1,033. Machado garnered 959 votes and Franchino 933. The two local Democrats each received more votes than any of the other Democrats on the ballots.
As results began to arrive, the Republicans congregated at the VFW Post on Locust Avenue, while Democrats gathered at Delicious Heights.
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George Devanney, surrounded by a group of Democratic supporters punched in numbers on a calculator as they came in from the various districts in the township, as the candidates anxiously watched and listened to the numbers. They took District 2, 8 and 10 and split District 4 and 5, but when all the districts were in, it was clear they had lost to the Republicans.
A similar situation played out at the VFW, where a crowd of local politicos and their supporters filled the facility.
Pastore said, "I think we got votes for running a positive campaign."
D'Aquila thanked "everyone for coming out to vote. I'm looking forward to serving the township."
Pastore added, "The town is showing us they like what we're doing," with redevelopment, COAH, and other projects. "They are happy we stayed out of the dirt."
Over at Delicious Heights, Franchino said, "It was an exciting campaign. We became very involved with community members and the results speak (to the fact) that residents want more information."
Machado said, "Clearly I am disappointed, but I'm happy with the response of the voters ... I wish both Mr. Pastore and D'Aquila all the best."
Franchino echoed that thought and added, "I hope they take the suggestions the residents voiced" during the campaign.
Devanney said, "I am proud of the campaign that Bill and Rina waged. Clearly their message resonated with voters. I look forward to them continuing to participate in the process of town government.
Across the board, voters supported Republicans in Berkeley Heights, although that wasn't always the case on the county level.
County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi, a Democrat, was returned to office; Freeholders Alexander Mirabella, Mohamed S. Jalloh and Bruce H. Bergen, all Democrats, were re-elected.
District 21 State Assembly members, Jon Bramnick and Nancy Munoz, both Republicans were re-elected.