After an acrimonious campaign, voters in Teaneck on Tuesday returned three incumbents to the Township Council — a move that is likely to perpetuate a divide between the council’s veteran lawmakers and its newest members.
Councilman Mohammed Hameeduddin, Mark Schwartz and Henry Pruitt won decisively, defeating four challengers — Stephen Gruber, Michael Pagan, Chondra Young and Jacob Herenstein.
“I’m humbled by the voters of Teaneck that have the trust in me to send me back for another four years to represent them,” Hameeduddin said Tuesday night.
Though Teaneck’s council elections are non-partisan, the campaign played out astride a fault line that pitted three incumbents against four challengers, only three of whom campaigned actively. The back-and-forth turned bitterly acrimonious at times, with robocalls and anonymous letters serving as vehicles for personal attacks.
The bitter tenor of the campaign tested the patience of voters. At one debate, moderators had the candidates sign a pledge to keep the electioneering clean.
Hameeduddin, who operates an insurance business and was the township’s first Muslim mayor, will commence his third term as councilman. Councilmen Henry Pruitt, a retired educator, and Mark Schwartz, who works in real estate, were elected for a second time.
All three incumbents endorsed one another and were often associated on campaign materials. The incumbents, who had the backing of Deputy Mayor Elie Katz, also largely supported one another during a series of debates, particularly on issues where they were required to defend their records.
Hameeduddin and Schwartz ran under the slogan “Moving Teaneck Forward.” Along with Pruitt, they championed ongoing redevelopment efforts as a means of generating new revenue. Some in the township, including the challengers, have questioned or opposed the anticipated influx of apartment complexes, saying they do not know what their effect will be on township services, or that the council should have sought commercial projects instead.
The incumbents’ victory means that the make-up of the council — and the personality clashes within it — are likely to remain unchanged. The incumbents and Katz have often been at odds with two of their colleagues, Councilmen Jason Castle and Alan Sohn, since the two were elected in 2014. Castle and Sohn, who were not up for reelection Tuesday, said they were the subject of campaign-related personal attacks, possibly due to their support for some of the challengers this year.
“I’m just looking forward to regrouping with my council,” Hameeduddin said.
Three of the challengers — Gruber, Pagan and Young — did not run as a slate, but they positioned themselves as fresh voices for a township that they say is in dire need of new perspectives. They called for more responsible stewardship of the township’s finances and for more transparency and communication with public.
Gruber is an actuary who runs a Facebook group called “Teaneck: End the Madness,” which serves as a forum for news and articles about the township and fosters discussions among residents about local politics that can get heated at times. Pagan, the public information officer for Bergen County, ran unsuccessfully for a council seat 16 years ago. And Young, the only woman on Teaneck’s ballot this year, is a financial reporting compliance analyst for a property management company who volunteers in the township in various capacities, including as a Girl Scout troop leader.
All the candidates suspended public campaigning after the death of Mayor Lizette Parker on April 24. Parker, 44, the first black woman to serve as a mayor in Bergen County, died after being rushed to Holy Name Medical Center with respiratory issues.
The seventh candidate, Herenstein, was the least visible throughout the election and said he spent no money on his campaign. A first-time candidate and accounting student at Yeshiva University, Herenstein did not attend the candidate forums leading up to the election and didn’t hold fundraising or campaign events. But the 22-year-old did win a different election this month; he will be president of the Yeshiva Student Union next year.
The winners will be sworn to four-year terms in at the township’s reorganization meeting on July 1. At that meeting, the new council also will select the next mayor, who will hold the position for two years, until the next municipal election in Teaneck.
Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.
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