Eatontown independents make history

Staff Writer

After defeating four other candidates in the Nov. 3 general election, independents will hold two seats on the seven-person Eatontown council for the first time in borough history.

With all nine districts reporting and 3,926 votes cast, incumbent Councilman Anthony Talerico Jr. and running mate Virginia East defeated Democratic and Republican challengers to secure three-year terms on the Republican-majority governing body.

“I am very happy with how everything turned out,” Talerico said Nov. 4. “Virginia and I worked very hard … and are proud that all of our hard work paid off.”

During the general election, Talerico was the top vote getter, receiving more than 21 percent, or 843 votes, total, while East received the second highest number of votes, 684, more than 17 percent.

“We really feel that the town, in our opinion, was calling for some type of independent voice,” said Talerico, who won election to a third term on council.

For his first two terms, Talerico served as a Democrat on council, but he announced in April his decision to run as an independent.

“Eatontown has learned that every vote counts,” East said. “There are a number of residents registered as unaffiliated, over 60 percent, and I think people just want to be able to go [to the polls], make a good decision for the town without having any pressure of feeling you have to be in line with your party.”

East was also a member of the Democratic Party before opting to run as an independent. “I really felt over six years that what I was hearing was the party system has problems and I wanted to see if the town would support breaking away from the party, but getting elected is only half the issue,” Talerico said.

“Now we have three years to prove that what we said about being non-partisan is true … and that is exactly what we intend to do.”

“In the end the town didn’t elect us to fight or to be argumentative or to be anti-party; the town wants us all to work together and I think the Borough of Eatontown is going to be quite pleased with how well everybody is going to work together and move forward in a very positive light.”

According to East, the future of Eatontown is what is important, not party affiliation.

“The future of Eatontown is very important to me, we have the whole development of Fort Monmouth, over 400 acres, we still have big concerns with traffic issues, so I want to work with Anthony and the rest of the council in trying to strike the right balance between commercial and residential development in Eatontown where everyone still has a great quality of life here,” she said.

“We have a lot here in five square miles, and I want to see it being maintained and a place where people can still work, play have fun and visit.”

Republican candidates Edmund Fitterer Jr. and Douglas Ronan each received more than 16 percent of the votes cast, with Fitterer securing 642 votes and Ronan receiving 628.

For Fitterer, the results were unexpected, especially coming off last year’s victory when Republican Party members were able to oust long-time Democratic Mayor Gerald Tarantolo.

“We anticipated a strong showing from Talerico and East, but thought that they would pull more votes from the Democrat candidates than from the Republican ticket,” he said.

While Fitterer said that low voter turnout played a huge part in this year’s election, having two independent candidates also impacted voters.

“This election did have a different feel to it as the Republican Party had just come off a huge win last year when Dennis Connelly captured the mayor’s office,” Fitterer said. “While the election results dealt a small blow to the party, it pales in comparison to the damage it perceivably caused the Democrat Party.

“Eatontown still has a Republican mayor, a Republican council president and a majority on council. The Democrat party lost both of the council seats that it held.”

Democratic challengers Tiffany Miller and Judith Bretzger received more than 14 percent of the overall votes each, securing 557 and 572 votes, respectively.

“We might not have won, but we’re not going away,” Bretzger said. “Those of us who have been attending every council meeting for the last several years will continue to do that and try to bring important issues to the attention of the governing body, whether they want to hear us or not.

“Although I had hoped for better, I’ve always been reluctant to get my hopes too high on election night … [but] I was heartened by the warm reception I received when I walked door-to-door. Eatontown voters are polite and generous with their time.”