Stafford Township Mayor John R. Spodofora won his ninth local election Tuesday night, leading a Republican sweep of the municipality’s first partisan election in 30 years, according to unofficial results from the Ocean County Clerk’s Office
A Stafford resident since 1957, Spodofora launched his political career nearly 25 years ago when he won his first term on Township Council. Spodofora became mayor in April 2011 when he and fellow Council members ousted former Mayor John McMenamin after they determined McMenamin no longer lived there because he bought a $757,000 house in Surf City on Long Beach Island. Council then unanimously selected Spodofora to replace McMenamin.
McMenamin, once Stafford’s chief of police, ran Tuesday for Ocean County Sheriff. Based on the nearly 80 percent of votes counted by 11 p.m., McMenamin appeared to have lost with 4,316 votes to Republican incumbent William L. Polhemus’ 90,180 and Democrat George 'Bob' Armstrong’s 65,488 votes.
Stafford Township voters decided in July 2010 to do away with nonpartisan municipal elections held in May and instead run a partisan contest for local leaders in November. Tuesday’s race was the first local partisan one in Stafford in three decades. The 28 months since the switch was marked by infighting among local Republicans, who’ve long dominated the political scene in Stafford and throughout the rest of Ocean County.
Former township Republican Club President Martha Kremer publicly challenged Spodofora’s Vietnam war record. But ultimately, the club’s mayoral endorsement went to Spodofora, who didn’t return calls seeking comment after results came in Tuesday.
Spodofora’s entire Moving Stafford Forward slate won Tuesday: Township Council President Stephen Fessler and Incumbent Republican Councilman Robert Kusznikow each won their second terms, while Sharon McKenna will be a new member of council.
McKenna did not respond to calls seeking comment after election results posted.
Reached on their cell phones, neither Fessler nor Kusznikow was surprised by Tuesday’s outcome
“Our opponents ran a great campaign, but I maintain our current council did a great job for Stafford and will continue to do so,” Fessler said. “The biggest concerns over the last two weeks have been Sandy. We haven’t put signs up at all, and worked with our churches. Our main focuses have been our people. All our tears, hopes and prayers go out to those who are suffering.”
Kusznikow’s reasons were a bit different.
“Being in a Republican-type town, people just go right down the column,” said Kusznikow, who’s now looking at his second term. “I don’t think people look and try to find out anything about the candidate. ... It’s a shame. I know there are some people who do, but overall, it’s just straight down the line.”
Incumbent Councilman Henry Mancini’s separate, unnamed Republican slate was successful, bringing in novices Paul Krier and Lori Wyrsch.
“I’m gratified,” Krier said. “Given the recent ... storm, we’re going to be looking helping people deal with those impacts, and at water and sewer, and the debt, certainly.”
The only incumbent who lost is Councilwoman Joanne Sitek, who ran as an Independent on the We are Stafford slate. Paul Marchal challenged Spodofora for the mayor’s seat. None of their running mates won either.
Councilman Stan Rutkowski and Councilwoman Kathleen Corbett did not seek re-election.
Mayoral candidate Thomas J. Litwin, who got 72 votes — or less than 1 percent of the total — Tuesday, was unreachable for comment.
Litwin, 43, was arrested in August and charged with possession of marijuana over 50 grams, possession of synthetic cannabinoids, distribution of marijuana to an undercover police officer and possession of controlled dangerous substance paraphernalia.
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