Six to run for two council seats

Two file petitions to run as independents

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Two residents have filed petitions to run as independents in the November election for the two West Milford council seats. That brings the total to six candidates, including two Republicans and two Democrats.

Michael J. Gerst and Peter G. McGuinness filed the petitions with the Passaic County Clerk by the deadline Tuesday to run in November as “West Milford Independent.”

Councilwoman Ada Erik and Marilyn Lichtenberg have their Republican Party’s nod, as do Democrats Councilwoman CarlLa Horton and Melissa M. Brown Blaeuer.

Gerst, a registered Republican and a regular at township council meetings, said Wednesday night he “didn't think to go to the committee to get their nomination.” Nor did he think to challenge the committee’s candidates in a primary.

“It just wasn't the path I was going to take,” he said.

Local Republican Chairman Dan Jurkovic, himself a former councilman, wasn’t pleased with having a fellow Republican run against the committee’s candidates.

“Mike (Ramaglia) and I have been working for the past two years to try and bring the party back together, to work for Republican causes, to stop the nonsense,” said Jurkovic.

What disturbs him even more is that sitting Republican councilmembers signed and circulated the petitions for the Independent candidates. Council members Michael Hensley, Lou Signorino and Michele Dale all signed the petitions; Gerst said Hensley circulated one of his petitions.

Jurkovic also said some Republican County Committee members supported these independent candidates.

“This is GOP Strong rearing its head again,” he said.

The Republican Party in the township has had primaries for at least the last five years, as a split in the party divided loyalties. And it came up from the county, as a split there leached into local municipalities. Jurkovic took over from former Republican leader Carmen Scangarello and said he tried to bring all Republicans together. This was the first year there was no primary for his party’s spots in quite a while.

Not personal
Gerst said he just thinks he can make a difference on the council and it’s not personal with those already running. He said he’s not running against anyone; he’s running for what he thinks is the right thing to do.

“Town government has needs and wants,” Gerst said. “People who are willing to put their money into what they need, like roads, police, garbage collection. As you go down the line, you find the wants.”

He said he has learned a lot coming to the meetings and paying attention to what the council has to do.

Quiet primary on Tuesday
Neither Erik and Lichtenberg nor Horton and Brown Blaeuer faced opposition from their party on Tuesday. It was a quiet turnout, with Erik and Lichtenberg garnering just under 500 votes each, while the Democrats got a little more than 200 each.

As they face the November election, they'll have more than each other to contend with.

Jurkovic is standing behind his candidates, and calls them the true independent thinkers.

“If you want independent thinkers, you want Ada and Marilyn,” he said.

What do you think about the additional candidates in the race for council? Go to westmilfordmessenger.com and let us know.

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