MONTCLAIR, NJ - Only approximately 2,200 residents out of over 28,000 came out to vote in Tuesday's election, and the results are in.
Councilman Sean Spiller received 678 votes and won in the Third Ward against Maureen Edelson, who earned 252 votes. The other incumbents ran unopposed.
After retrieving the results from the municipal clerk and interviewing with Robin Ehrlichman-Woods on TV34, most of the victorious candidates went to Egan's to celebrate.
Spiller walked into Egan’s Restaurant close to 10 p.m. He told TAP into Montclair, “I am just excited. Really thankful for so many people who worked so hard. This night, this feeling…it’s about seeing all that hard work come to fruition. It’s a great feeling.”
Mayor Robert Jackson said he was happy with the victory. “I’m particularly happy for Sean. I’m looking forward to working with the citizens of Montclair to make this an even better town in the four years ahead,” Jackson said.
Although not victorious in her quest for a seat on the council, Edelson expressed pleasure with the outcome during a televised interview. Some of her supporters express that it was a good showing for someone who had never run for office before.
Edelson said, "This was my first entry into what I would call, governance. I am not a politician." She stated that she has no desire to be a politician, but said that running for office has been "a terrific journey."
Deputy Mayor Robert Russo was pleased with the outcome of the race, but expressed dissatisfaction with the turnout saying. "This was the lowest voter turnout in all of my years running for office in Montclair." He stated that he has run in 6 elections and feels this was largely due to the uncontested race, but added that voters should still come to the polls even in an uncontested race. "I've always seen a lot of people coming out when there is a contest...we never had no contest. This is the first time I've seen this." He compared the Third Ward, where there was a contested race with the voter turnout in the other wards to make his point.
"It seems like if there is no contest, people feel like there is no need to vote. It's an unfortunate thing," Russo added. He urged voters to always go to the polls to demonstrate support of the leadership that is running, whether the race is uncontested or not.
Essex County Freeholder Vice-President Brendan Gill came out to congratulate the winners. Gill is also Montclair Democratic Committee Chair.
When asked for his thoughts on this largely uncontested race, he said, “It’s an overwhelming victory for Sean. It was the only contested ward race in the election cycle. I think it’s really a strong validation for the entire ticket that they’re very very happy with the current leadership, and with the direction the township is going to take.”
Gill said that sustainability and stability are things Montclair didn’t have for a while.
Tap into Montclair asked Gill about his thoughts on the ELEC report released indicating Spiller was supported in large part by the NJEA. All candidates who run for office must file an ELEC report revealing their campaign contributors.
Gill said, “I think a lot of that is overblown. I think he has a day job like many of the people do. We don’t talk about other candidates who are lawyers, engineers, and architects. He is a union official and has the right to do that. It’s about what he is doing for the township, and 70% of the vote says that people in his ward approve of the job he is doing.”
Spiller's Campaign Manager Henry De Koninck responded to the same question. He said, “NJEA supports candidates all over the state who support public education. Sean supports public education. Not surprising that they would support him.”
De Koninck said, “Sean knocked on over 500 doors, we ran a robust campaign. Sean is a progressive in a progressive town.” He added that in a campaign the three things needed are framing the narrative, defining yourself and your opponent.
De Koninck added, “It’s a huge win for Sean, a huge win for Montclair, and we couldn’t be happier.” He did feel that having an uncontested race was an anomaly and didn’t expect another in 4 years.
Montclair attorney Ira Karasick said, “We have a lot of high powered people in town. Four years ago a lot of them showed up as candidates at the polls. This time there is a general consensus that things are going pretty well.”
He added, “People say I am an apologist for the regime, but the best local government is one that is invisible.”
Martin Schwartz, who is on Montclair’s Planning Board was in attendance at the celebration at Egan's said about the lack of opposition, “It was a testament to the competency and willingness to work with the issues by the current administration.” When asked what he thought of using resources for an uncontested race he said, “I don’t even look at the world like that. Nobody ran against them because there wasn’t sufficient opposition.”
A voter from the third ward said he did vote, but wouldn’t say for whom. He said he wanted to vote write in, but he found out that before a write in is added, that person has to register with the town. He said, “That defeats what write in is.”
A few of the write-ins included, but were not limited to Selma Avdicevic, Ron Jacobs, Sandy Sorkin, among a host of others. Some voters also wrote-in Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse for council seats.
Dave Harron, a resident who was happy with the results responded to criticism that some have voiced with an uncontested race, saying, “It’s America. If you are not going to run then don’t complain.”
Editor's Note: Natalie Heard Hackett contributed to this article.