NEWARK, NJ — Armando Fontoura is the apparent winner in the Democratic primary race for Essex County Sheriff with more than 91% of the districts reporting.

The incumbent holds a commanding lead with 503 of 548 districts reporting, according to unofficial results reported on the Essex County Board of Elections website, Fontoura leads the Democratic candidates with 25,285 votes. Challengers John Arnold Jr. and Barry Jackson trail Fontoura with 6,089 votes and 1,508 votes, respectively. 

A win for Fontoura would pit him against Nicholas Pansini, the winner in the Republican primary. With 503 of 548 districts reported, Pansini leads with 5,609 votes, while Maureen Edelson received 1,387 votes, according to unofficial results.

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Fontoura announced in January that he would seek re-election for an 11th-term. The incumbent is a 24-year veteran of the Newark Police Department. He assumed office in 1990 and is currently the longest-serving sheriff in Essex County history. He is also the dean of the New Jersey sheriff's delegation. 

Prior to election day, Fontoura received endorsements from The Newark Police Superior Officers’ Association, Gov. Phil Murphy, former Gov. Richard Codey and Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair). 

This year's primary was the first time in nine years Fontoura faced a challenger for the Democratic nomination. 

He was challenged in the primaries in 2009 and 2012, but ran unopposed in 2015 and 2018, according to the Essex County Clerk’s Office website. Arnold previously ran unsuccessfully against Fontoura in the 2012 Democratic primary. 

When TAPinto Newark spoke with the incumbent the day he announced his bid for re-election, he said one of his objectives for office was to maintain a consistent response time for local authorities to stymie potential violence.

“We want to make sure our officers are able to respond,” Fontoura said. “We are going to continue to deescalate and make sure that people understand we are here to serve the public with dignity and respect. That’s been my mission for a long time and [it] is going to continue to be my mission for the future.”

Prior to his election as sheriff, Fontoura rose through the ranks of the Newark Police Department, starting in 1967. During his 24 years in Newark, he earned the rank of captain and served as chief assistant to the police director. As chief assistant, he helped formulate policy, issued daily directives and was responsible for the Office of Public Information.