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Democrats Gain Two Seats in Caldwell

Tight race puts Frank Rodgers and John Kelley on top while Republican opponents Douglas Piazza and Joseph Norton lose by a handful of votes.

Last update: 9:18 a.m.

Democrats Frank Rodgers and John Kelley were the apparent winners of Caldwell's municipal election, squeaking by their Republican counterparts by only a handful of votes.

With all seven districts reporting Tuesday night, it appeared that Democrats took back two seats on the current all-Republican council. Rodgers was on top with 851 votes, followed by Kelley with 830 votes. Their opponents, Republican incumbents Joseph Norton and Douglas Piazza, showed 823 and 824 votes respectively, according to unofficial results.

However, it was not immediately known if the Republicans would challenge the outcome of the election. If the election results stand, the Republicans will still retain a majority control of the council.

Kelley and Rodgers’ camp gathered at Kelley’s home on Hillside Avenue, with several former Democratic members of the Caldwell Council, as well as former Mayor Susan Gartland, in attendance. 

Rodgers, who changed out of his suit into a Caldwell football sweatshirt before the election night party, said he wasn't sure what the outcome would be.

"I'm feeling really good," he said. Pointing to his running mate John Kelley, he added, "that's the difference."

Rodgers lost a close race for council last November in a special election to fill an unexpired term.

Kelley, who has never run for elected office before said, "I didn't know what to expect."

"Frank and I are a good team," Kelley said. He said voters wanted to see checks and balances in the borough's governing body, which is currently made up of six Republican councilmen and a Republican mayor.

Former Democratic Caldwell Mayor Susan Gartland, who supported the candidates in their campaign, said, "There are people to watch what happens on the council and to challenge anything that is not totally proper."

She added about Rodgers and Kelley, "I think both of them will be great assets."

In the upstairs room at the Cloverleaf Tavern, supporters of both Norton and Piazza were shocked and disappointed at what appears to be a close loss for the incumbent Republican candidates.

"I am actually very disappointed that the town chose to ignore the time, energy, efforts and visions that we had for this town," said Piazza. He said he was suprised residents chose to "go with the unknown" and questioned whether his opponents had the same "time, passion, and commitment" for the town as he said he and Norton have.

Norton, although disappointed, said the election was just too close to call and he was not ready to concede. "You never know, we are not conceding anything," he said.

But he said if he comes up defeated, he is satisfied with what he was able to accomplish during his three years on the council.

"I can sleep soundly at night knowing that this town is in a lot better shape financially for its residents than it was three years ago when I first stepped into office."

Caldwell Council Candidates   
Votes Francis X. Rodgers (D) 851 John T. Kelley (D) 830 Joseph Norton* (R) 823 Douglas Piazza* (R) 824

* Denotes incumbent

West Caldwell

Councilmen and , both Republicans, ran unopposed in the West Caldwell municipal race. This will be the fourth three-year term for Aiello and the third for Otterbein. With all nine precincts reporting, Aiello received a total of 1,139 votes and Otterbein received 1,141 votes.

In an interview with Patch before the election, Aiello said, "There are plenty of projects that we have planned over the next few years. The current council will be proactive in developing a master plan to address the township’s future needs while also being cognizant of the current economy and I will continue to contribute wherever I am needed."

Looking ahead to his next term, Otterbein, who currently serves as Council President, said, "I expect to continue to support upgrading our infrastructure and recreation facilities, completing the fire headquarters renovation project, enhancing our technology capabilities, and maintaining the services that create a safe environment for both our residents and the business community."

North Caldwell

Councilman and Councilwoman, both Republicans, ran uncontested in North Caldwell. Chiaia received 519 votes and Santomauro received 529 votes, with all precincts in Tuesday night.

Chiaia said his vision for the future of North Caldwell includes a "rezoning plan for a section of town which would provide mixed-use commercial and residential, to create a town center, with the integration of recreation areas, the development would include restaurants, a liquor license, and a COAH element that satisfies the town’s remaining obligation."

He added, "I would also like to see the Walker's Pond area become a town-owned park, with a walking path and skating in winter."

Santomauro said in her fourth-term shared services will continue to be a major focus of her work on the council.

"In addition to contemplating additional combined services with like-minded towns," she sad, "we hope to keep taxes at, or as close as possible to, current levels while maintaining the high level of services our residents expect."

Kevin B November 09, 2011 at 04:52 PM
Congrats Frank and John.
Tammy November 09, 2011 at 05:33 PM
There is still hope for our town. I don't know what the other guys agenda really is, since everything in our town has improved 150% over the past several years. Our Councilmen and Mayor care about our children, our downtown, our residents, and our neighbors. It is ashame that "we did forget" the good. What was forgotten? The newly acquired "Green Space" quite literally in the backyard of the Cedars, the new stop signs to help all cross safely, the plans for Safer Streets, and newly formed traffic committee, and a Farmers Market manned full time by a resident who cares enough to dedicated 100+ hours for who? For us. Our existing Council listened, they responded, we heard them, but then you selected to forget the accomplishments when you went to the polls on 11/8. What more do you want from council? This is a pretty nice town with amazing first responders, council that does not nickel and dime us, and they personally are quite generous to all not for profits during fund raising seasons. Well, it is done. Was it really that important to vote in a former Republican turned Democrat, just to say "now we have two Democrats on council"? I don't see any reason why it was necessary to change any of the accomplished Councilmen. If all it took was an election on merit there would not be any seats a changin'.
Amy Piazza November 09, 2011 at 06:41 PM
I personally would like to congratulate both John Kelley and Frank Rodgers. I know how much work they have just committed to and I look forward to what I hope will be effective contributions to continue moving our town forward in a positive direction while keeping our taxes down. I also want to congratulate Councilman Joe Norton and my husband, Councilman Doug Piazza for running a campaign with integrity, dignity and grace while still working tirelessly for the residents and businesses of Caldwell. As a volunteer, you have both amazed me, inspired me, and hopefully have brought some much needed new energy and ideas to this town! Thanks for caring so much!
Carolyn Byrne November 09, 2011 at 08:35 PM
Maybe the people of the town have not "forgotten" what Norton and Piazza have done, maybe we are tired of what has not been done! Look around town, our mayor felt the need to mail a letter to each home in town "explaining" how after more than a week the town is still littered with trees and' how main streets would be cleared first. Have no fear residents of the Cedars, the main street of Gould is clear... Really? Maybe the timing of the election was bad timing for Mr. Norton and Mr. Piazza. Maybe if it was held before the storm we wouldn't feel so let down by the towns lack of response to the mess that is the town streets! Or maybe, just maybe the towns voters are just fed up with the same old politics as usual.. Just something to think about while waiting at one of the 3 stop signs the town felt the need to erect on Brookside Ave.
Tammy November 10, 2011 at 04:09 AM
Nice Amy.

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