NEWARK - The voices of the parties faithful who selected their Nov. 6 General Election candidates have spoken here June 5, prompting about a minute's applause here at the Robert Treat Hotel.
The applause came from some 250 people who welcomed city native Donald Payne, Jr. and Fairfield's Armando Fontoura into the hotel's Crystal Ballroom at 9:30 p.m. Payne and Fontoura respectively drew 69 and 71 percent of the vote to, most likely become the next 10th Congressional District representative and Essex County Sheriff.
Payne and Fontoura's landslides on the Essex County Democratic Organization Line A ticket came against eight opponents. Democrats in the bulk of Essex County plus parts of Hudson and Union Counties chose Payne over five rivals. Party voters in 542 of 557 reporting polling districts across all 22 Essex County municipalities returned Fontoura against three challengers.
There were other primary elections within and outside of the county, from ratifying Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as the Democratic and Republican candidates for President of the United States, down to the Maplewood Township Committee and dozens of municipal and county party district leaders.
The unofficial results, to be certified by County Clerk Chris Durkin by June 19 barring any recounts or challenges, reflect triumphs of the regular county Democratic and Republican organizations from the Presidential down to the township committee levels.
"The election went smoothly," said Durkin to "Local Talk." "We did have heavier turnouts in Newark's South and Central wards and in East Orange."
Durkin, indeed, left his Essex County Hall of Records office to join the reception at 9:45 p.m. He did record that 67,451 voters either directly cast or mailed in their ballots. They represented 14.29 percent of the county's 457,994 registered voters.
Tuesday night's turnout is a two percent increase over that on June 3, 2008. There were 51,663 of 414,197 registered voters, or 12.47 percent, who cast ballots back then.
Most of the races were either unopposed or in districts where one party has a predominance of registered voters over the other. Many of Tuesday night's election results were tantamount to a majority party candidate of being virtually assured of General Election victory Nov. 6.
Payne, for example, is almost assured of becoming the 10th CD successor to his late father. The younger Payne, 53, who once said that he never talked with Donald Payne, Sr., about succeeding him, said that his wife granted him permission to run March 8.
"I was talking with my wife and children a few days after we buried my father," said Payne, Jr. in the ballroom. "We went back and forth until my wife said, 'Go ahead and run. We'll be all right. Your father will be smiling down on you."
Donald Payne, Sr., 77, had intended to run for another term this year. His only challenge at the time was from Newark West Ward Councilman Ron C. Rice, who announced his challenge in December.
Payne, Sr., a 23-year House of Representative member, however, succumbed to colon cancer March 6. Payne, Jr., conferred with his family and party organizers while State Sen. Nia Gill, of Montclair, Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith, Newark resident Cathy Wright and Dennis Flynn, of Glen Ridge, announced their bids.
The younger Payne, who also currently serves as an Essex County Freeholder and Newark Municipal Council President, drew the support of most of the regular Democratic organization. Payne, Jr. also generated six times more campaign funds than his four rivals combined.
Voters also had their own challenges. For starters, they had to vote twice for their 10th CD representative; one for the late Payne's unexpired term and again for his successor's regular two-year term. Voters also had to be familiar of who they were voting for in redrawn Congressional districts.
On Tuesday, Payne received 22,818 or 69.28 percent of the vote to fulfill his father's six-month unexpired term. Rice drew 9,009 for 27.35 percent and Smith 1,081 for 3.28 percent. There were 27 write-in votes.
For the full two-year term, Payne drew 25,068 voters for 61.09 percent of CD 10's Essex County vote. Rice drew 9, 324 for 22.72 percent, Gill 5,338 for 31.01, Smith 914 for 2.23, Wright 220 for .54 and Flynn 153 for .37. There were 18 write-ins.
"There were naysayers who said that I was too young or inexperienced," said Payne, Jr. from the ballroom stage podium. "They forgot that I followed my father's path; he was also a Newark councilman and a freeholder before running for Congress. I listened to what he wanted for his community, his city, his Congressional district, his state, his nation and the world.
"Who else will build on his legacy?" continued Payne. "I stand on my own two feet."
Payne is to face Republican candidate Brian C. Kelemen Nov. 6. Kelemen, except for eight write-ins, got the GOP nod with 1,166 for 99.32 percent.
Albio Sires, whose Eighth Congressional District includes part of Newark's East Ward, turned back challenger Michael J. Shurin 89.1 percent to 10.9 percent. Democrat Sires is to face Republican Maria Karczewski, who was unchallenged, Nov. 6.
Voters in five northeastern Essex County towns were spectators to Paterson's Bill Pascrell, Jr. defeating Englewood's Steve Rothman, 61.3 to 38.7 percent, for the Eighth CD Democratic nod. Englewood Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, with 57.8 percent of the vote, meanwhile got the GOP nod over challengers Hector L. Castillo (29.1 percent) and Blase Billack (13.1).
The 2010 U.S. Census-based redrawing found incumbents and friends Pascrell and Rothman squaring off. Pascrell used to represent Northeastern Essex County.
Fontoura will likely be keeping his Sheriff's badge after receiving 35,008 voters for 72.15 percent of the vote. John Arnold Jr., a retired Essex County Prosecutor's Office detective, drew 9,459 for 19.49 percent. Arnold ran on Rice's Line B, a ticket that also had the endorsement of CWA Local 1039 and State Sen. and Orange native Richard Codey.
Outgoing Montclair Deputy Mayor Roger Terry amassed 2,673 for 5.51. Herman J. "Tito" Rivera garnered 1,358 for 2.80. There were 25 write-ins.
Fontoura is to face Republican Orlando Mendez for the fourth time since 1997. Mendez ran unopposed June 5.
"Thank you very much - I love this job," said Fontoura. "We need to keep the line going in November with Barack Obama and Donald Payne, Jr."
Incumbent President Obama, for the record, drew up to 99.84 percent of the Democratic primary. Challenger Mitt Romney meanwhile got the Republican nod with 6,641 for 85.36 percent.
Ron Paul tallied a distant second at 624 or 6.02; followed by Rick Santorum (293 or 3.77), Newt Gingrich (189 or 2.43) and 33 write-ins. Romney is the presumptive GOP nominee since Paul, the last of his rivals, suspended his campaign three weeks ago.
Maplewood voters meanwhile confirmed incumbent Democrats Jerry Ryan and Kathy Leventhal plus challenger Republican Arthur Gartenlaub to contest for two Township Committee seats Nov. 6.
Leventhal tallied 1,879 for 50.43 percent and Ryan 1,826 for 49.01 percent for their Democratic approval. There were 21 write-ins. Gartenlaub meanwhile drew 217 for 99.09 percent versus 25 write-ins.
"Local Talk" asked several municipal through state level elders who joined in Payne and Fontoura's celebrations. Incoming and outgoing Orange mayors Dwayne Warren and Eldridge Hawkins, Jr., East Orange Mayor Robert Bowser and Montclair Assemblyman Tom Giblin presented a consensus that voter turnout and regular Democratic Party organization campaigning were keys to Tuesday night's results.
Other elected dignitaries included Orange Councilwoman Donna Williams, East Orange Council members Jacquelyn Johnson, Sharon Fields and Ted Green and State Sen. Theresa Ruiz.
County Democratic Chairman Phil Thigpen, citing exhaustion, did not show at the Payne/Fontoura reception. State Democratic Committee Chairman, Sen. James Wisniewski (D-Woodbridge) assured the audience that what divisions among different party lines will heal.
"The Democrats will come together in the next couple of weeks like they usually do," said Wisniewski to "Local Talk." "They have to. They know there's too much at stake for the Presidency, Congress and State House to remain divided."