HILLSBOROUGH: Cooper wins upset for one of three seats on school board

Brett Cooper says he think he won a seat on the Hillsborough Township Board of Education the old-fashioned way.
He had no lawn signs, nor endorsements from politically prominent individuals. There were no “hot” issues. Instead, he traded on his personal and community connections to seek votes.
“I coached a lot of teams, and I volunteered at schools and the YMCA a lot,” he said “I just got everyone I may have touched in my life and said, ‘Could you please vote for me, and talk to your friends?’”
Mr. Cooper, a retired attorney now a fulltime professor in business and sports management, surprised the field Tuesday in winning one of the three three-year terms on the school board.
He finished second among five candidates. Deena Centofanti, in winning a second term, led the field with 2,413 votes. Then came Mr. Cooper with 2,159, followed by Dana Boguszewski with 2,142. Incumbent Lorraine Soisson lost her re-election bid by 2,134 votes. Thomas Zobele, a college student and lifelong township resident, gained 1,386.
Hillsborough Republicans continued to dominate their hold on local government by re-electing Carl Suraci and Greg Burchette on Tuesday.
Mr. Suraci captured 3,072 votes and Mr. Burchette 2,989 to capture their fifth and second three-year terms, respectively.
Democrats registered 2,209 for retired educator Ann Harris and 2,229 for Laurie Poppe, an attorney and social worker. Independent candidate Susan Gulliford had 510.
Nearly 20 percent of the 26,575 township voters cast ballots.
On a state level, Jack Ciattarelli and Donna Simon, the two Republicans who represent the 16th District in the state Assembly, were locked in a race too close to call with Democrats Andrew Zwicker and Maureen Vella.
Tallying up unofficial results posted from the county clerk of the four counties in the district put Mr. Ciattarelli, a Hillsborough resident, in the lead with 16,526, with Mr. Zwicker at 16,213 and Ms. Simon 30 votes back at 16,183. Ms. Vella, a Hillsborough resident and attorney, was close with 15,953.
Mr. Zwicker is a Princeton Plasma scientist and a 2014 Congressional candidate.
Mr. Ciattarelli was first elected in 2011, and Ms. Simon in 2012. They won handily (by about 2,600 votes) in Hunterdon County municipalities, and had a 1,500-plus plurality in Somerset, but were swamped in South Brunswick by nearly a 2-1 margin and in Princeton by a 4-1 ratio.
The 16th District includes Hillsborough and Manville.
Ms. Centofanti is a nurse manager at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Ms. Boguszewski works as a registered nurse in the pediatric emergency department at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.
Mr. Cooper said his support of full-day kindergarten may have gotten him a few votes. He was the only one of the five candidates to show opposition to a proposed March question to borrow $2 million to pave the middle school parking lot and renovate the turf field at the high school. There were some social media comments against that stand, he said, but at least “I gave a stand. I didn’t just give a political answer.”
Mr. Suraci is a FDA and international regulatory compliance professional for Church & Dwight Co., Inc. Mr. Burchette is owner of Bridgewater Motorworks, and manager of the Central Jersey Regional Airport, in the township near Manville.
Ms. Harris is a retired Hillsborough Township School District teacher. She cited her volunteerism and career in environmental education. Ms. Poppe said her legal practice focuses on helping families with issues such as separation, divorce, and parenting after divorce. She also works as a therapist.
Ms. Gulliford has lived in Hillsborough for 30 years. Her writing career includes about 10 years as a photographer and newspaper correspondent specializing in covering Hillsborough Township, particularly the local government.
Ms. Harris has been outspoken in her opposition of the demolition of the Duke estate and its potential for some adaptive reuse.
Ms. Gulliford noted her regular attendance at township meetings, at which she is a frequent questioner from the floor. She prides herself on her abilities to research issues, she said.
The Republicans pointed to the record of the all-Republican Township Committee in managing finances. They point to an upgrade in the township’s bond rating — an indication of the broad market’s confidence in the township fiscal matters — in the last year.
Mr. Burchette in particular took credit for his diligent pursuit in organizing the Shop Hillsborough property tax credit program. In it, residents can get a free discount card and, when they use it at participating merchants, can have the value of the discount applied to reduce their local property tax bill.
Incumbent Frank Bruno, a Republican, defeated Hillsborough’s Christian Mastondrea for county surrogate.
Two Somerset freeholders won new three-year terms. They are Republicans Patrick Scaglione of Bridgewater and Mark Caliguire of Montgomery.They were opposed by Democrats Brian Regan and Patrick O’Connell.