EDISON – Councilwoman Antonia Ricigliano is one step closer to becoming Edison’s first female mayor after defeating incumbent Jun Choi in Tuesday’s primary.
The two-term councilwoman had the backing of the township’s Democratic Committee as well as the local police union, but still trailed Choi by 18 points in a poll taken two weeks before election day.
“Does it get any better?” Ricigliano asked at her campaign headquarters on Tuesday night. “I couldn’t believe it. When the phone call came in, I didn’t know who it was—it was Mayor Choi conceding. We didn’t even have all the numbers on our board yet.”
Ricigliano received 6,582 votes — 378 more than Choi, according to unofficial results. Slightly over half of Edison’s 25,536 registered Democrats voted in the primary.
Choi said he would not run as an independent, calling himself a “lifelong Democrat” who hasn’t given up on his party. The mayor blamed his loss on negative campaigning. Ricigliano spent the campaign portraying Choi as a dishonest politician who distorts his tax and reform records.
Ricigliano was able to carry her slate of three council candidates to victory as well. The trio, Councilman Robert Diehl, former council president Charles Tomaro and newcomer Thomas Lankey, secured the Democratic nominations for three open council seats in November’s general election.
Republican mayoral candidate Ray Koperwhats and his council slate were unopposed in the primary. However, Ricigliano is the favorite in November since the heavily Democratic town hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since the 1950s.
Four independent candidates filed Tuesday to run for mayor in November. The best-known is Councilman Anthony Massaro, who has usually aligned with Ricigliano. Massaro had said that he would withdraw his name if Ricigliano won. Joseph Coyle, the chairman of the Neighborhood Preservation; Peter Cerrato, a local business who has run for mayor before; and newcomer Inder “Andy” Soni also filed to run as independents.
Incumbents carried the day in most of Middlesex County’s other contested primaries.
Freeholder Carol Barrett defeated challenger Jusleine C. Daniel 13,724 votes to 3,387 in the Democratic primary for the nomination to run for the final two years of David Crabiel’s term on the board.
Freeholders H. James Polos and Ronald Rios easily defeated Donald Hansen and Robert E. Garibotto in the Democratic primary. Hansen and Garibotto did not mount a campaign and ran only to help Choi secure a better ballot position.
In the Democratic primary in Carteret, incumbent Joseph W. Sitarz and Dennis DiMascio beat Sultan M. Babar for two three-year terms for borough council. DiMascio received 711 votes, Sitarz, 698 and Babar, 211.
The only other contested Middlesex County primary took place in Jamesburg, where borough council candidates Thomas Busco and Russell White defeated Democratic incumbent Brenda Deans.