Roxbury Council Retain Seats; 'C.A.R.E' Candidates Take School Election

L-R: Anne Colucci stesses out as election results are posted while Heather Champagne and Joseph Bocchino IV also watch the screen at Roxbury town hall
L-R: Mark Crowley, Jaki Albrecht, Jim Rilee and Bob DeFillippo celebrate Election Day victories at Legends Ale House in Succasunna

ROXBURY, NJ – Four incumbent Republican members of the Roxbury Mayor and Council were returned to their positions in today’s election while three newcomers were chosen for the township school board.

Roxbury Mayor Mark Crowley, Roxbury Councilman Bob DeFillippo, Roxbury Councilman Jim Rilee and Roxbury Councilwoman Jaki Albrecht easily won election to the township governing body.

The three men will return to their 3-year-long, at-large seats while Albrecht – chosen by the council in July to fill-in for former Roxbury Councilman Gary Behrens, who resigned, will represent Ward 2 for the remaining two years of Behrens’ 3-year term.

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It was an election that saw two Democrats, Lawrence Jones and Sean Cope, throw their hats in the ring but then do very little in terms of campaigning. Insiders described their candidacies as just "placeholders" on the ballot in the predominantly GOP municipality.

There was a bit more excitement in the non-partisan race for three, 3-year seats on the school board as Joseph Bocchino IV, Heather Champagne and Anne Colucci teamed up to run together under the Concerned Advocates for Roxbury Education (C.A.R.E.) banner. That left the other candidate, Eric Pilkington, as a lone wolf.

Despite that, Pilkington waged a good fight, receiving 2,148 votes, only 459 fewer than Bocchino. Colucci received 2,684 votes and Champagne – who lost a Democratic bid for Mayor and Council in 2015 – was the top school board election vote-getter with 2,985.

Roxbury attorney Heather Darling, a Republican, beat Democrat Rozella Clyde in the race for a seat on the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Darling received 70,853 votes to Clyde’s 52,980. Her election means that two of the seven freeholders are from Roxbury, the other being Kathryn DeFillippo.

Perhaps the most anxious and excited of all the local candidates was Colucci, a certified home health aide who’s lived in Roxbury for 22 years. She's lost two prior election bids, one for town council and one for school board. Throughout the day, and evening, Colucci seemed on the verge of tears as she dealt with the Election Day stress.

“We did this all on our own,” Colucci said, expressing relief after the final results were posted. “We would get up at 6 o’clock in the morning until we went to bed at night … This is a great team. We’re like family.”

Champagne said she thought her 2015 run for council helped her in the school board race. "The first time running, there were a lot of things that I didn't know how to do," she said. "I'm grateful for the prior experience, not only because it gave me some insight as to how to run a campaign properly but also because it got me some name recognition ... I'm grateful to my ward and everybody who's come out to support us."

Pilkington said he was  "obviously disappointed" with the results. "But, despite the loss, I think my impact will be felt," he said. "I brought a lot of unique and progressive ideas to the table and I hope that our board will take a few and run with them. I am humbled by the support I had throughout my campaign. Despite the result, I will continue to be a voice and an advocate for our schools. I wish Ann, Heather, and Joe the best of luck."

DeFillippo and Rilee said they were glad about the turnout, especially since it was a cold and rainy day. The township has about 15,500 registered voters and about 6,700 cast ballots. “Once again, the Roxbury residents demonstrated they’re well-informed and engaged,” DeFillippo said. “I want to thank everybody, all who came out today, regardless of who they voted for. It makes me proud to be part of this community.”

According to the Morris County Clerk's Office, DeFillippo received 4,358 votes; Rilee received 4,255 votes; Crowley received 4,375 votes; Jones received 2,210 votes; Albrecht received 946 votes and Cope received 474 votes.

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