Aronsohn, Pucciarelli Victorious; Hauck Appears to Edge Killion
Unofficially victorious Aronsohn-led slate promises change to village government. Provisional ballots have not yet been counted and there remains a chance Killion overtakes Hauck.
Updated last at 10:59 p.m. Tuesday
When the dust settled, voters said it's time for new leadership in Ridgewood.
In the closest election in years, voters opted for Councilman Paul Aronsohn, Planning Board Vice Chairman Albert Pucciarelli and thus far, by the slimmest of margins, Gwenn Hauck. The three leading vote-getters will take office at the reorganization meeting in July and will serve four year terms.
Technically, the vote isn't over yet.
With 1727 votes, Hauck amassed only 16 more votes than the fourth-leading vote-getter, incumbent Mayor Keith Killion.
Village Clerk Heather Mailander said provisional ballots still need to be counted by the county board of elections. It could take up to five or six days before the race is official, she said.
Aronsohn – whose last-minute political strategy of endorsing Hauck and Pucciarelli at the candidate's debate appeared to have paid dividends – curried the most voter favor on Tuesday night, capturing 2,479 votes.
"The thing that brought us together is the shared belief of good government and responsive government," Aronsohn said. "That was the message we took throughout the community, to the East Side and the West...one of the biggest issues in people's minds are the high taxes."
The three ran on a platform of a "zero-based budgeting" approach, speaking out against raises to village management, jump-starting Valley talks, and finding a way to spark a revitalization in the downtown.
Pucciarelli amassed a comfortable 2,078 votes, placing within the top three in virtually all of Ridgewood's 19 polling districts.
The planning board vice chair said although there are sure to be some changes with the new slate, he'll be consistent on one thing.
"One of the things I will not do differently is my homework," Pucciarelli said. The attorney and pilot told Patch he plans on incorporating Ridgewood's residents into the discussion, and weighing on its talents and wisdom.
"The [budget] process will include a top-to-bottom review," he added, remarking he doesn't feel it's been done before and is desperately needed.
Tuesday's election represents a marked change in voter turnout in Ridgewood.
"What the numbers showed is people came out to vote who didn't vote before," Hauck said, as Mayor Killion shook her hand and offered his congratulations.
Poll numbers show West Side districts that have historically turned out 10 percent of registered voters boomed with 20-27 percent in districts this go-around. A total of 23 percent of voters turned out.
"I think that shows that everyone in Ridgewood is energized by this election and more people are interested in having a say in what goes in our government," said Hauck, a West Sider. "And that's good for Ridgewood."
Mayor Keith Killion, who appears to have conceded the election to Hauck, said he had no regrets as his time on the council comes to an end.
"I did my best for four years and the people spoke," the mayor said. "I'm looking forward to retirement. I have a shore house and I plan to spend a lot of time with my grandchildren and my family."
I'm sure it's in good hands," he said of the village. Killion ran his campaign on a "back-to-basics" focus, telling residents infrastructure needs improvement and he wanted to keep "urbanization" at bay.
The former police captain took heavy criticism for the retroactive salary raises issued to Village Manager Ken Gabbert and senior management.
Shinozuka, a planning board member who called herself a "dark horse" candidate, expressed disappointment with the results.
"I hope the future holds the best for the town," said the HSA member who had 1484 votes. "I'm disappointed, I would have liked to have seen the mayor get back in. It was a good experience for me. I got a lot of fabulous support from my husband [Rei] and women in Ridgewood."
Russell Forenza, the Paterson budget officer, didn't receive any endorsements in the election and it might have been over for him long before Tuesday. Forenza captured only 817 votes, about half of what other candidates received.
"It's tough running without getting any type of endorsement in the Village of Ridgewood," he said. "I think that's what hurt me."
The Concerned Residents of Ridgewood (CRR), which had squabbled with Aronsohn after he endorsed Pucciarelli and Hauck, offered their voting bloc to Killion and Shinozuka (and begrudgingly, Aronsohn). They appear to be the big losers on Tuesday.
Until May 8, the grassroots group had not seen one of its candidates suffer defeat in any Ridgewood election, thanks in large part to high turnouts around B.F., Travell and RHS.
The CRR now faces a loss of two of its endorsees on the council – Councilman Steve Wellinghorst opted not to run again and Killion's likely loss. To make matters worse for CRR, it's feuded with Aronsohn and has called Hauck and Pucciarelli supporters of the Valley expansion project, dubbed 'Renewal'.
Still, the preliminary math doesn't seem to indicate there will be hospital construction anytime soon. Aronsohn maintains he does not support 'Renewal' and Pucciarelli will abstain from votes due to professional conflicts. Even if Hauck were to support the project, there doesn't exist enough votes to overturn the council's 5-0 November decision.
What it does mean, however, is we're likely to see a dramatically more proactive council in that controversial arena.
The Aronsohn slate has said it wants to initiate talks with Valley to understand the hospital's supposed needs, what the neighbors can and cannot accept, and ultimately, if some sort of agreement can be reached.
Aronsohn, who has battled with sitting council members Bernie Walsh and Tom Riche during his time on the dais, is almost certain to be appointed mayor when the new-look council begins this summer.
It remains to be seen if there is relative harmony or if contentious 3-2 votes become a staple of Wednesday night meetings.
One thing's for sure, the political landscape has been completely altered in the village.