For the first time in history, females have the majority in the Town Council, and they are all Republican. While the mayoral race held on Tuesday, November 6, was a non-starter because there were no contenders vying against Eric Wilsusen, the Town Council race was up for grabs. The Republican females easily surpassed the Democrat males for the two available seats.
Longtime incumbent and Town Council president Debi Merz retained her seat and told The Jefferson Chronicle, “It is the first time we have a female majority on the council. I was by myself for about 20 years.” Newly elected member Melissa Senatore, currently on the Board of Education, said that she did not know what to expect prior to receiving the news of her win. She explained, “While we were campaigning, I kept waiting for the Democrats to pounce, to do something – but that never happened.”
Although the two Democrats were unopposed in the primary, they faced an uphill battle with the experience and name recognition of the Republican team. Despite their newcomer status, preliminary results show that Daniel Malloy secured 18.10% and Doug Helmstetter secured 16.89% of the votes. Considering there are 4,347 registered Democrats in Jefferson (according to an October 2017 summary of Morris County voter registrations from the Morris County Board of Elections), the initial totals of 2,669 and 2,490 votes for Malloy and Helmstetter respectively are a significant achievement. Total vote tallies may change once mail-in and provisional ballots are counted.
Robert Vander Ploeg Jr. was a Town Council candidate in the primary election and is currently a member of the Board of Adjustment. Regarding the general election outcome, he said, “There were no surprises.” The small celebratory group at Gatwyns II – in comparison to the crowd after June’s primary election – seemed to echo Vander Ploeg’s thoughts. Mayor-elect Eric Wilsusen joked, “It was a tight race, but I pulled it out.” The anti-climactic gathering may have been due to the lack of a general election mayoral race or even the soggy weather.
Tremendous Voter Turnout
There was no shortage of voters. Pollsters at the Health Center on Minnisink Road reported a steady flow of voters for districts 1, 2, and 3. The parking lot was nearly full all day. Lilly Lleschi of Prospect Point said she came out specifically for the local election, not the national midterms. When asked the same question, Sharon Klingener of Oak Ridge stated, “It was a little of both.” Countywide, a whopping 52.30% of registered voters showed up at the polls.
Jefferson Township Republican Club president Will Felegi announced, “We are proud of local candidates and we are proud of all the work we put into the local and national elections.” When asked if he thought voters were drawn by the local election or the state seat runoff, he told The Chronicle, “I really think it was both. I have only been here for two years, but as I understand it, there really hasn’t been a primary or even general election race for many years due to a lack of candidates. This year, we had multiple local candidates with new Democrat challengers. Combined with the Trump anger that people were having, people wanted to come out and put a check on the president. So it all just compounded.”
Board of Education Results
Incumbent Amy Gould and newcomers Lary Wasserman and Christopher Natale secured Board of Education seats. Despite a write-in bid, Dylan Terpstra was unable to secure enough votes. Each board member will serve a three-year term.
Editor’s Note: These results are unofficial and may change, pending tally of mail-in and provisional ballots.