SUMMIT, NJ - Democratic candidates have won -- over the past four years -- eight of the nine contested local elections in Summit, virtually all of them by a hefty percentage. The lone Republican to emerge on top during this period was current Council Member Steve Bowman, who defeated Greg Vartan in 2016 by just nine votes.
In 2018, both of the victors -- one of which was Vartan -- were Democrats, setting up a Council that now features five Democrats -- David Naidu, Marjorie Fox, Matt Gould, Beth Little and Vartan -- and two Republicans, Bowman and Mike McTernan. The City's Mayor, Nora Radest, is also a Democrat.
It was not long ago that the Council and the Mayor's office were occupied entirely by Republicans.
Summit's 'Decision 2018' featured Naidu -- the current Council president from Ward 1 -- defeating Republican challenger John Dougherty 2,460 - 1,420 votes, a 63.4% - 36.6% margin. Vartan, in Ward 2, outdistanced Republican Louis DeSocio 2,578 - 1,503, a 63.2% -36.8% margin.
Saying that he is "ecstatic about being Summit's choice to serve as the next Councilman for Ward 2," Vartan believes that his campaign was "able to connect with so many people by knocking on every door in Ward 2 (almost twice)." He also felt that making his positions clear through a blog and videos was a contributing factor in his successful candidacy and said that his campaign, "Put the values I believe define our Summit character front and center. Those are respect, honesty, hard work, and responsibility."
Naidu said he is "humbled" by the support he received on election night and in "the reaction i got from people when I went meeting them door-to-door."
During those in-person meetings, Naidu said, "I talked about the issues that people care about and that the Summit City Council has control over. I talked about what I've done over the past three years... the budget, pedestrian safety, sustainability, redevelopment, working with the County, and parking. I talked about where we needed to be headed together and how we can get there. Specifically, I focused on Broad Street redevelopment and the ideas surrounding what can happen in that area."
As for the Democratic surge that has significantly flipped the party make-up of the Council. Vartan said, "in conversations with voters, party affiliation doesn't come up all that often. I believe that the people who have won Council races over the last three years have done so because they ran campaigns focused on fiscal responsibility, increased transparency, and making our government work well for everyone."
Naidu noted that, "The people in Summit want to hear from folks who have ideas of about what needs to be done to continue to improve the town. In the last few elections, the people who have won have talked about reducing and controlling property taxes, supporting Full Day Kindergarten, moving forward with Broad Street redevelopment, and focusing on different ways to make streets safer. These are issues that people want us to move forward on. Moreover, people want a civil discourse. They don't want people who break the political norms in our community."
Asked to comment on the election trend that has developed in Summit the past four years, Summit Republican City Committee Chair Steven Spurr stated via e-mail that,"Yesterday's results felt more like a repudiation of the President than a ringing endorsement of Democratic candidates on the ballot. For someone as ethically compromised as Senator Bob Menendez to garner such substantial support in our small town should give Republicans, Democrats, and especially independent voters pause."
Spurr added, "The issues that government is particularly well-suited to address will remain unchanged if we allow raw emotion alone to decide how we vote. Modernization of transportation infrastructure, protection of educational choice, better stewardship of our environment, and tackling the affordability crisis rooted in New Jersey's oppressive tax burden will be left undone if we continue with such short-sighted thinking in the voting booth. Here in Summit voters can trust Republicans to focus foremost on these pressing local issues and work in good faith with anyone equally committed to improving the everyday lives of our neighbors."
In additions to the local Democrats' fortunes, also on the rise is the voter turn-out percentage in Summit, which was 35.7% in 2015, 62.6% during the presidential year of 2016, 42.1% in 2017, and 52.7% in 2018.