Hawthorne, NJ – With Passaic County’s unofficial municipal results released, insights as to the electoral breakdown are visible. Incumbent Mayor Richard Goldberg secured his victory with 2,451 votes, or 54.9%. Democrat candidate Naomi Collier took 1,762, or 39.5% of the vote. Independent candidate Phil Speulda took 246 votes, or 5.5%.
“I am gratified that the residents of Hawthorne voted to give me four more years,” Goldberg told TAPinto Hawthorne following his win. “I look forward to continuing to make Hawthorne a great place to live and work. I congratulate my Council team and look forward to our usual great relationship. My opponents ran a positive campaign and I congratulate their effort. Running for office is daunting and not for the weak at heart. We grow as a community when residents get involved in the process of government. The election was clearly a victory for Hawthorne and I am prepared to continue to be their standard bearer.”
A little historical perspective may reveal the habits of municipal voters with regards to larger events in the state and the country. In 2012, the borough voted for Barack Obama 49.9% to Mitt Romney 48.9%. The following presidential election year, Hawthorne voted for Donald Trump 49.5% to Hillary Clinton 46.2%, reversing a Democratic swing. Perhaps a sign of growing voter disenchantment, the number of votes for third party or independent presidential candidates nearly tripled, from 1.2% in 2012 to 3.3% in 2016.
Despite a well-funded Phil Murphy campaign which took advantage of widespread distaste for Governor Chris Christie and, by further extension, President Donald Trump, the municipal Democrats did not enjoy another swing of the political pendulum in town this year. Murphy defeated his Republican challenger for the governorship, Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, 56% to 42%, a somewhat narrower and inverse reflection of Hawthorne.
The features of the 2017 election compared to that four years prior is marked not so much by any noticeable party shift, but by a depressed voter turn-out, a reflection of greater voter apathy across the state. For the council-at-large seats, the three Republican incumbents collectively took 7,103 votes while the three Democrat candidates scored 5,585, making a split of 55.9% to 44.0% in favor of the Hawthorne GOP. Hawthorne remains a red town by a significant but not overwhelming margin.
"On behalf of Team Goldberg, I'd like to thank the voters in Hawthorne for their incredible show of support in this year's election," Councilman Bruce A. Bennett said to TAPinto Hawthorne after the GOP ticket's win. "I think the margin of victory makes a loud and clear statement that they approve of the job we are doing and they trust us to keep working on their behalf to improve the quality of life in Hawthorne. Serving the best interests of over 18,000 people is a tremendous responsibility and not one we take lightly, so it's gratifying to know that a large majority of the voters appreciate what we're doing and approve of the way we're doing it." Councilman Bennett had responded to TAPinto Hawthorne's Candidate Questionnaire, which you can read here.
Governor Christie was at the height of his popularity in 2013, coming out as a strong leader in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and Republicans did well in general across the state. However, today Christie is polled at historically low ratings and is blamed by many political scientists as having caused irreparable harm by association to Guadagno’s efforts to succeed him. Some statewide political observers are calling it a “blue wave” election of Democratic gains that, while carrying Governor-elect Phil Murphy to victory over Republican Guadagno, has not washed over Hawthorne.
The 2013 municipal elections for mayor and council saw a significantly higher voter turn-out in general, with Goldberg taking 3,118 votes to Lois Cuccinello’s 2,121. This represented a mandate of 59.5% to the mayor to Cuccinello’s 40.4%. With the 2017 mayoral Democratic figures down by -0.9% and Goldberg’s was a more significant -4.6%, Independent Phil Speulda’s small voting base of 5.5% appears to have negatively impacted the mayor and GOP, as evidenced by the Democrat’s stable figures and Goldberg’s slight decline from 2013. Speulda’s slogan “Make Hawthorne Affordable Again”, seen on signs throughout the borough, is a variation of Donald Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” and would have appealed primarily to Republican voters.
The 2013 council race produced a 56.4% GOP to 43.5% Democrat outcome, a one percent variance in favor of the Republicans compared to 2017, but also during an election which saw almost a thousand more votes cast for each party than this year. Hawthorne appears to have been immune from any party shifts which impacted the rest of the state from the events of the past five years with the exception of a decline in voter participation in general.