Hammonton is the only town in Atlantic County to have a contested Republican primary this year.
The Hammonton Regular Republican Club has put forth two candidates for three seats: Sal Mazza, 69, and Jerry Vitalo, 64. Both filed petitions to run by the cutoff of 4 p.m. Monday.
The Hammonton United Republicans announced their candidates in February, at the second meeting of the new club. They are Michael Torrissi Jr., 39; Otto Hernandez, 60; and Steve Furgione, 38.
Hammonton United members said at the time that they started a new GOP club to rebrand the Republican name, after two of three candidates narrowly lost to independent Hammonton First candidates in last November’s general election. Hammonton First Mayor Steve DiDonato also defeated GOP challenger Joe Giralo.
Richard Curcio, chairman of the Hammonton Republican Municipal Committee, said in February that he and Atlantic County Republican Chairman Keith Davis were working to repair the split between the two local Republican clubs in the hopes of avoiding a contested primary.
Hammonton Republican Club President Charles E. Woolson Jr., a local attorney, said his group discussed the possibility of backing the Hammonton United slate but decided against it.
“It’s hard to tell precisely why it wasn’t agreed upon,” Woolson said. “We just couldn’t do it.”
Five of six council seats and the mayor’s office are now held by members of Hammonton First, which will announce its slate of candidates in May, a spokesperson has said. Independent parties do not participate in primaries, but have until June 3 to file their candidates for the November election.
No Democrats filed to run, but Hammonton Democratic Chairman James Schroeder said it would only take eight write-in votes in the primary to get a Democrat’s name on the November ballot. He expects a Democrat may end up on the ballot that way.
The sole Republican council member is Mickey Pullia.
Vitalo was born and raised in Hammonton and runs A. DiSalvo Masonry in Hammonton, he said.
He was on council from 2007 to 2008, and has served on many boards and commissions, he said, including the Planning Board, Zoning Board and Environmental Commission.
Vitalo and wife Patricia have three adult children. He said he will focus on reducing taxes and addressing the concerns of senior citizens.
Mazza is a retired cook, caterer and Whitehall Laboratories worker who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. The lifelong Hammonton resident said he has been active in the Regular Republican Club for more than 30 years and on the Republican County Committee for more than 20 years.
“I’m running for council to keep taxes under control and give taxpayers good service,” Mazza said, especially seniors and veterans.
This is Mazza’s first time running for office, but he previously served on the Zoning Board, and for many years as commander of VFW Post 1026, he said.
He has been a cook for the parish of St. Joe’s Rectory, and has run his own catering company, Uncle Sal’s Catering. In all of his volunteer activities with the GOP and community groups, he always cooks, he said.
Mazza has been married to wife Judy for 28 years and has two adult daughters.
Torrissi, 39, is senior vice president at Coraluzzo Torrissi Transport in Vineland and a graduate of Hammonton High School and Rutgers University. Torrissi was a councilman from 2011-12 and past president of the Hammonton Republican Club.
Hernandez, 60, has a doctorate in organizational leadership and is the dean for Career and Technical Education and STEM Programs at Atlantic Cape Community College. He has been with Atlantic Cape 35 years, he said, and for many years taught in the computer department there.
Furgione, 38, is the new club's treasurer who had been treasurer for the Republican Club. He lost his seat on Town Council last November by 25 votes after serving one, two-year term. A graduate of Hammonton High School and Penn State University, he owns TLC Landscape Co. in Williamstown.
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