Two river voters elected four mayors in Tuesday’s elections, with interim Little Silver Mayor Robert Neff Jr., a Republican winning his first four-year seat with 1,180 votes.
Almost sixty percent of voters in Little Silver turned out for the election, defeating Borough Council President and Independent candidate Daniel Levine, who received 802 votes, which equaled 40.42 percent, based upon the unofficial tallies recorded Tuesday night.
A majority of the borough council elected Neff in August to serve the unexpired term of Mayor Suzanne Castleman, who died July 29. He then campaigned successfully for the full-four year term.
“I can’t tell you how humbling it is,” to receive the endorsement of voters, Neff said on Wednesday. “It’s an enormous responsibility to live up to. I’ll work damn hard to make sure I don’t let those folks down.”
Contested elections are not that frequent in Little Silver and Neff hadn’t had an opportunity to run in a contested race prior to this year. While he “felt an awful lot of strong support out there going door to door,” he acknowledged, “It was difficult to read the tea leaves and predict how it was going.”
“I’d like to think I got my message out and people liked it and I’m grateful for it,” he said.
His opponent was philosophical about his loss.
“I feel, though I didn’t get all the votes, I did win in my own way,” Levine said on Wednesday. “I’m proud that they [voters] were aware that I was trying do something a little bit different,” working outside of the major political parties, he said of his run. “And I can make things a little bit different.”
Levine was elected to the borough council as an independent three years ago when the governing body and the mayor were all Republican. “It’s not all about winning. It’s not all about losing. It’s about give and take,” he said, offering his support for the incoming mayor.
Along with the mayor, borough voters re-elected Democrat Daniel J. O’Hern Jr. to his second three-year term, and elected Neff’s running mate Republican Dane S. Mihlon to a first term on the council.
In Sea Bright, voters elected Democratic Borough Council member Dina Long as mayor, giving her 293 votes, or 54.16 percent of votes cast. Long defeated former Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams, a Republican who received 196 votes, and Independent mayoral candidate Christopher Sandel, who received 52 votes.
The three way race for mayor came about after one-term incumbent Mayor Maria Fernandes, a Democrat, decided not to seek re-election due to health considerations. Fernandes won her seat from Kalaka-Adams four years ago after several years of service on the council.
Long had been appointed to the council in 2002 and won re-election in 2003, 2006 and again in 2009. As the unofficial results were finalized and it became clear she won, Long said “It’s a bit overwhelming.”
But, she continued, “When we wake up tomorrow we’ll all still be living together,” as well as working together, in a small community. “Now I’m going to call my mother,” she concluded.
Sandel, who had never run for elected office, was quick to offer his congratulations and his support to the new mayor-elect. “I think the person who worked the hardest won,” he said of the race.
“I’m hopeful and optimistic,” and said he would consider another run for elected office. “I’m going to be around,” he said.
Kalaka-Adams declined to comment on Election Night and did not immediately return calls seeking comment on Wednesday.
Voters may have selected a Democrat for their mayor but they also returned the two incumbent Republicans to the six-member borough council, re-electing C, Read Murphy and James LoBiondo III for their three-year terms.
In Atlantic Highlands voters returned incumbent Mayor Frederick J. Rast III, a Republican, to office by an almost 2-to-1 margin, with Rast received 819 votes or 64.74 percent of the turnout.
Running against Rast was Democrat Paul Cavise, a local lawyer, who received 442 votes, 34.94 percent of the votes.
“The residents of Atlantic Highlands, obviously, are happy,” Rast said, a face evidenced by his re-election as well as the re-election of the two incumbent Republican councilmen, John Archibald and Peter Doyle. “They realize we have done a good job and I think we have, honestly.”
Democratic Council candidates Tamlyn Wilbourne and Deborah Zapulla received 473 and 486 votes, respectively.
Rast said that prior to the election, he was confident that he would win the support of borough voters, noting that he has always been straightforward with the public. A case in point was his announcement last month about an additional $30 a quarter water surcharge the council will be instituting in January, he explained. That may have cost him some votes, but he never considered waiting until after the election to announce it. “That may have given my adversaries some votes,” he suspected. “But my feeling about it was you do what you got to do.”
This election will probably mark Rast’s last as a candidate, said Rast, who is 67. “I wanr to move out of the way and let other people come in,” once this term is up. But, “I’ll still be around,” and probably will remain active with the local party organization.
Cavise did not immediately respond Wednesday to phone call seeking comment.
In Rumson, Mayor John Ekdahl was re-elected in an uncontested race, garnering 97.85 percent of the vote with 955 votes cast.
Republican incumbents Shaun P. Broderick and Benamin W. Day were re-elected with 866 (40.34 percent) and 906 votes (42.24 percent) respectively. Democrat Philip Wagner garnered 367 votes, or 17.09 percent of votes cast.
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