GOP To Choose Ciarrocca Successor Sunday
Barabas and LoGrippo are under consideration to fill third ward seat.
Westfield's Republican Party is considering members of two important local boards to fill the vacant third ward seat on the Town Council.
Patch has learned that Downtown Westfield Corporation board member Diane Barabas and Planning Board member Mark LoGrippo will both be considered Sunday when third ward Republicans meet to decide on a successor to Councilman Mark Ciarrocca, according to a source close to the town Republican leadership. Ciarrocca is stepping down from council to become a state Superior Court judge. It is unclear if any other names will be considered during the meeting.
Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, the town's Republican chairman, confirmed the Sunday meeting is taking place, but declined to comment on the candidates under consideration. Barabas has confirmed her interest in the seat. LoGrippo could not be reached for comment as of Friday afternoon.
Under state law, town Republicans have to present three candidates to the Republican dominated Town Council for appointment to fill the remaining six months of Ciarrocca's current term, which expires on Dec. 31. The council is likely to make the appointment at Tuesday's meeting, which is the only one scheduled in July. It is common practice for political parties to submit the names of two uninterested candidates alongside a prefered candidate to fill a vacancy. It is unclear if this will be the case when the GOP submits a list to the council.
Republicans will also pick a candidate to replace Ciarrocca on the November ballot for a full four-year term. Bramnick has said that the interim replacement will be the likely pick to run for the full term. Democrat Matt Sontz and Independent Greg Kasko are also both seeking the third ward seat in the November election.
LoGrippo, a sales executive for Verizon, has been active in Republican politics for several years. In addition to serving as a Republican county committeeman, he has served on the planning board since 2010. He was also active in Tom Delaney's unsuccessful 2009 challenge to Democratic Councilman Dave Haas for the other third ward seat. Mayor Andy Skibitsky has appointed LoGrippo to serve as the mayor's representative to the board for one-year terms in 2010 and 2011. If appointed to the council seat, LoGrippo will need to resign from the planning board.
Barabas, a local Realtor, ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for Union County freeholder in 2006. She finished fourth in the seven-person field for three seats on the freeholder board in the election. With 46,114 votes she was the top Republican vote getter in the 2006 freeholder race. She has served as a Town Council appointee to the DWC board since 2007. The DWC oversees economic development and event planning for the downtown central business district.
Barabas, a Stoneleigh Park resident, has been vocal in recent months on issues surrounding parking and traffic at Westfield High School. She has proposed shifting bus traffic from the front of the high school on Dorian Road to the back parking lot. Barabas's driveway backs into Dorian Road across from the high school.
The third ward race has been ranked by town politicos as the most competitive race of the four in town. Sontz unsuccessfully challenged Ciarrocca for the seat in 2007 and Kasko, a former police officer who retired from the force following disciplinary hearings, have both promised active campaigns. The ward has been dominated by the issue of the pedestrian-activated stoplight on Central Avenue near the intersection with Clover Street, which is being opposed by the local resident whose front lawn the light was placed on. Kasko has aligned himself with the residents who have opposed the light.
The third ward also has a close split of Democrats and Republicans and the other council seat in the ward is the only one held by a Democrat — Haas. The last Republican appointee to a council seat in the third ward — Darielle Walsh in 2005 — lost her bid for a full term that year to Haas. Haas, who was appointed by Democrats to a one-year interim term in 2003, lost a full term that year to Ciarrocca.