Preliminary Vote Count Shows Wilsusen Ahead of Twenty-year Incumbent for Mayoral Spot

Although he said it was “an uphill battle,” a newcomer to the Jefferson Township political arena, Republican Eric Wilsusen managed the climb quite handily to outpace a 20-year incumbent in this month’s primary election.

Wilsusen garnered nearly 58 percent of votes to current mayor Russell Felter’s 42 percent, according to preliminary results from the Morris County Clerk. Felter has been the township’s mayor for 20 years, having often run unopposed.

Wilsusen’s win almost assures he will be the township’s next mayor, barring a GOP write-in challenge, since the local Democratic party is not running a mayoral candidate.

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All told, there were 2,493 Republican votes cast for mayor. The total, however, may change when absentee and conditional ballots are counted.

Apparently, the township is ready for the “change” Wilsusen and his running mates promise. Those running mates, Melissa Senatore and H. Ronald Smith also won a fair share of GOP votes in the battle for two open township council seats.

With an initial tally of 999 votes, Senatore – currently a member of the Jefferson Township school board – has the highest number of votes for the council run, with incumbent council member Debi Merz nipping at her heels with 937 votes, according to the Morris County Clerk.

Other Republican primary candidates scored as follows: Patty Fallon, 887 votes; H. Ronald Smith, 888 votes; and Robert Vander Ploeg Jr., 767 votes. All told, 4,480 votes were cast for the two open township council seats.

There was no Democratic primary battle for the two open seats on the township council.

Candidates Douglas Helmstetter, with 643 votes, and Dan Malloy, with 685 votes, will face off against the GOP candidates in the crucial November mid-term election.

Readers should note that these results are unofficial, pending tally of absentee and conditional ballots.

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Maria Weiskott is a Jefferson Township resident and a forty year veteran of the publishing profession. An award-winning journalist and editor, she served in top managerial positions at numerous business-to- business newspapers and magazines including Reed Elsevier and Fairchild Publications. Early in her career she operated a local newspaper in the Passaic Valley towns of Little Falls, Totowa and the former West Paterson. Following retirement, she launched a “ghostblogging” service that provides social networking update and blogging services for small and medium sized businesses. Maria travels widely with her husband and is a passionate photographer. She can be reached at