VINELAND — Former City Council member Ruben Bermudez will be mayor here for the next four years, after ousting incumbent Robert Romano in Tuesday’s runoff election.

Bermudez’s control of city government will be complete: All five members of his City Council slate were victorious in the runoff election for control of the governing body.

Balloting results showed Bermudez defeated Romano by a vote of 5,094 to 3,962.

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Winning City Council seats were Anthony Fanucci with 4,853 votes, John Procopio with 4,775, Anthony Spinelli with 4,725, Angela Calakos with 4,571, and Maritza Gonzalez with 4,247 votes. Rounding out the balloting was Mayra Arroyo with 3,779 votes, Peter Coccaro with 3,757 votes, Maria Laboy with 3,730 votes, Nelson Thompson with 3,400 votes, and Antonio Romero with 3,354 votes.

Bermudez and his five council candidates rallied at Hampton Inn on West Landis Avenue to await voting results. Bermudez, who will be Vineland’s first Hispanic mayor, arrived at the hotel shortly after 8 p.m. to hugs and cheers from supporters. One little girl rushed up to him, gave him a hug and asked if he had won.

“That’s what we’re here for,” Bermudez laughed.

Fanucci followed Bermudez into the room of happy people.

“It’s not easy,” Fannucci said of the campaign. “It’s a lot of hard work. However, whenever you are trying to accomplish something positive, it always is.”

Bermudez said residents in some critical wards seemed to have turned out in number to support him. He was weak in that area in the general election, he said.

“People really came out,” a broadly grinning Bermudez said as he waded through supporters. “It seems they understand things need to be different. People realized the differences.”

Bermudez praised the volunteers in his campaign, saying he could not have done well without them.

“They’ve really gone the extra mile,” Bermudez said. “They believed we can bring Vineland to another level.”

The outcome of the both the mayoral and City Council runoff election came as shock to people gathered at Mori’s restaurant for what they hoped would be a victory celebration. They watched vote totals shown on a big screen and grew more quiet as Romano never caught up to Bermudez.

Romano entered the restaurant ballroom around 9:10 p.m. to cheers from his supporters.

“I appreciated your support,” Romano said. “The people wanted Ruben as their mayor. They got Ruben as their mayor.”

Romano said he “put a lot of time and effort into the city,” and said his days in local politics are not over.

“In four years, you’re going to see me again,” Romano said.

Romano said he hopes that, four years from now, the city does away with runoff elections. That was something he pushed for during his administration, only to have City Council reject that option. Romano finished first in the Dec. 6 mayoral balloting.

Asked what happened on Tuesday, Coccaro, who ran with Romano and is currently City Council president, said, “I don’t know.”

“Voters speak,” he said. “They spoke. The way it looks, (the Bermudez slate) stuck to their game plan, and it worked for them.”

Arroyo, Laboy, Coccaro, Thompson and Romero ran as part of Romano’s Proven Progress slate. Arroyo and Coccaro are incumbents, and both ran with Romano four years ago.

Bermudez headed the Team Bermudez ticket. That slate comprised Procopio and Gonzalez, who ran under Bermudez’s Moving Forward … Together slate during the Dec. 6 balloting.

Also on the ticket was Fanucci, Spinelli and Calakos. They ran on Dec. 6 under the Vineland Taxpayers First slate, led by former Mayor Perry Barse.

Procopio, Gonzalez, Fanucci, Spinelli and Calakos joined shortly after the Nov. 6 general election results were final.

The (Vineland) Daily Journal contributed to this report.

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