(Nov. 18, 2010) — With the election now over and candidates getting ready to become public officials, it’s time for the annual post-mortem.
In local races in South Bergen, not much changed. All of the incumbents won in North Arlington, East Rutherford and Carlstadt. Wood-Ridge and Rutherford saw newcomers fill open slots on their governing bodies.
Only Wallington, where Celina Urbankowski claimed victory, did a challenger actually overcome an incumbent (that incumbent being Robert Ryaby).
So, one could easily say that at the local level, the Meadowlands went with the usual faces. There is nothing wrong with voting for those who have excelled in office. There is a sense of comfortable reality with people who are presently serving.
But it still needs to be noted that voters should look at the arguments made by challengers. Welcome these arguments with open arms, and don’t let the power of incumbency influence the electoral process too much. Every public official needs to answer for their actions, whether they have been in office for 20 years or 20 minutes.
In Lyndhurst, East Rutherford, Carlstadt and Wood-Ridge, the governing bodies are still controlled by one political party. Although more seems to get done at the local level when all of the council members are on the same page, there is also something lost with uniformity. In North Arlington and Rutherford, there is a freshness to the public discourse (though admittedly it gets out of hand). The power of dissent is alive and well in these two communities, and they are almost non-existent in the other boroughs where there are few examples when unanimous votes don’t rule the day.
At the county level, incumbents didn’t have so much luck. Kathleen Donovan upset Dennis McNerney to become the new county executive. Michael Saudino beat Leo McGuire to become the new county sheriff. And all of the Republican challengers for the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders beat the Democrat incumbents.
To be a Democrat in Bergen County politics today is a tough reality. The GOP is simply on a roll: they will have the majority on the freeholder board and hold most of the other important county offices. One can safely say that a new wave has swept into Hackensack.
Let’s give these new county leaders a chance to find success. But, let’s be honest, the odds are stacked against them. Bergen County politics is a ruthless game. Many leaders simply don’t last. Scandals materialize, and everyone cries pay-to-play is alive and well.
The Republicans will need to disassemble the concept of county government and start from the ground up. The challenge is going to be daunting. Let’s hope the vanquished Democrats are cheering for their success, rather than hoping for their failure.
We are in an age where everyone — Republican, Democrat or otherwise — should be pulling for the greater population. It’s not good if a public official fails. Yes, still disagree with their policies and try to persuade the masses.
But still hope for the best.