Republicans Sweep All But One Council Race
Della Fera, Kimmins, Haas and Loughlin win.
Starting in January Third Ward Councilman Dave Haas will be the only Democrat on the Westfield Town Council as last night's results showed him the only member of his party to capture a seat locally.
Haas, who is finishing his first full term, easily won reelection Tuesday night, besting Republican challenger Tom Delaney with 1,357 votes to 1,088 for Delaney. Haas has been joined by Fourth Ward Democrat Tom Bigosinski for the last four years, but Bigosinski was unable to beat back a strong challenge from Republican Keith Loughlin. Loughlin unseated the one term incumbent 1,412 to 1,270. The First Ward seat being vacated by two term Republican Sal Caruana will remain in GOP hands as Republican Sam Della Fera easily beat Democrat Janice Siegel 1,605 to 1,146. Second Ward Republican incumbent Vicki Kimmins was unopposed in her bid for a second term.
Siegel ran a strong campaign against Della Fera, frequently touting her work in chairing the citizens committee which studied the environmental commission proposal and as a former federal environmental prosecutor. She also frequently appeared along side Democratic mayoral nominee Bill Brennan, a First Ward resident, in his speeches to the Westfield Town Council. In the end, Siegel's advocacy work could not overcome Della Fera's monetary advantage and the built in Republican base in the ward. While Democrats have won seats in the First Ward, the ward is considered the second hardest for a Democrat to win in town. Ironically, the only Democrat to win townwide in the last century, former Mayor Tom Jardim, lives in the ward.
Siegel, a native of the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, stayed upbeat in her concession speech Tuesday night. She reminded supporters that she believes she did not lose the election, based on the support she received and what she did during the race. She also touched on how her grandmother was a poor, hardworking woman who could not have dreamed about what her granddaughter would accomplish.
"Now her granddaughter had the oppotunity to run for office in the great town of Westfield," Siegel said. "I feel like a winner, I don't feel like I have lost an election."
Della Fera, a member of the town's historic preservation commission, said he credits his victory to the popularity of Mayor Andy Skibitsky, who easily carried the First Ward in his reelection bid Tuesday and to the hard work of the Republican team.
"It was a great win for the town," Della Fera said in an interview Tuesday night. "I look forward to working with the mayor and the rest of the Council in keeping Westfield a great place to live."
Della Fera noted that his team campaigned hard during the election. He said in office he intends on focusing on ward related issues, including crime and downtown development, along with working with the mayor on a variety of townwide issues.
Kimmins had the easiest election cycle of any candidate in town after Democrat Carolyn Klinger-Kuetcher decided over the summer to drop her bid to unseat her. The Democrats decided in September to not run a replacement candidate against Kimmins, all but ensuring the incumbent's return for a second four year term.
In her speech to supporters Tuesday night, Kimmins stressed her roots in the Second Ward, noting that not only did she grow up in the ward, but her parents and other relatives continue to reside in the ward. Kimmins has been known for her attention to constituent issues and her advocacy on behalf of the ward. She was particularly active on issues relating to the proposed cell tower on the Cranford/Westfield line and in the redistricting of Washington School during her first term. She attributes her success to these issues.
"I would like to think that if you show your dedication to your constituents and are honest and fight for them, you can win," she said.
In an interview Tuesday night, Kimmins said she wishes the best of luck to the unsuccessful candidates and thanked Brennan and his ticket for coming to the GOP headquarters to congratulate Skibitsky. Kimmins has been close with Brennan for years and their sons are both in the band, The Static Jacks.
"I'm thrilled with the result," she said of Skibitsky's victory. "Either way you had great candidates on both sides of the aisle. I look forward to the next four years."
Haas has been known as a pit bull for the interests of his ward and for his aggressive campaign style. Political types have said the Democrat works hard in door-to-door grassroots campaigning and were not surprised that he pulled off a victory Tuesday night. It has been known amongst political insiders for several weeks that Haas was the Democrat most likely to win this year. Haas was also the only Democrat to outraise his opponent.
During his victory speech Tuesday night, Haas thanked his campaign team and said that the result is a contribution of the work of several people. He also noted that while the townwide results were not favorable for the Democrats, he spun it that a strong two party system was the biggest result of the night.
"We as Democrats can win when everything is right, all we have to do is put the pieces together," he said, noting that in the past the town had been dominated by the GOP.
Delaney, a financial planner, said he has no regrets about his campaign and enjoyed the chance to get involved in local politics. He intends on going back to his charitable work as a CYO basketball coach and will remain involved in local GOP affairs.
Delaney said he believes the factor that led to Haas' win was the college professor's schedule allowing him more time to knock on doors and meet with voters.
"I do not look at (the campaign) as being tough," Delaney said in an interview. "I looked at it as putting our message out there."
In the most competitive race in town, Loughlin has unseated Bigosinski. The Republican had run one of the most visible races in town history with a variety of fundraisers themed to kickball games and chicken wing eating contests. The Democrat had run a low key campaign focusing on his work on the Council instead of actively campaigning.
Loughlin significantly outraised Bigosinski, who filed a report earlier this fall saying he did not intend on spending more than $4,000 on the campaign. Bigosinski had intended to not utilize lawn signs during the race until Loughlin debuted his several weeks ago.
The race took a personal turn two weeks ago. During his closing statement at the candidates' debate, Bigosinski, 41, said he should be elected over Loughlin, 31, because he was a married father who owned a home. While Loughlin said he does not believe the issue swung the race, several voters who spoke with Westfield Patch on Tuesday said they intended to vote for Loughlin because of the comments from Bigosinski.
Loughlin thanked Bigosinski for the competitive race and said that he looked forward to working with Skibitsky and the other members of the Council.
"I'm very excited," he said. "My opponent ran a very good campaign. I thank him for his service to the fourth ward. I am excited and anxious to get started."
Loughlin said he intends to focus on the issues in his platform and the issues he discussed during his door-to-door campaigning. He said the information he gathered while on doorsteps serves as the basis of his plan for the first few months on the Council.
Bigosinski congratulated Loughlin during his concession speech Tuesday night. He said he finds the election results a life metaphor about winning some and losing some. In an interview Tuesday night, he said that he would not have changed campaign strategy.
"I ran the best campaign I could and I reached out to as many people as I could and I'm proud of my record and what I've done," he said.
The outgoing councilman said he believes the top of the ticket also played a role in his defeat.
"It didn't help in Westfield that Corzine was at the top of the ticket," Bigosinski said.