Freeholder Race Comes Down to Wire
In District 4, Democrat Len Luciano declares victory, Republican Joseph Chiusolo says not so fast.
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Updated 1:20 a.m.
With more than 99 percent of the vote counted, Democrat Len Luciano appeared to be beating Republican Joseph Chiusolo by just 230 votes, or less than 1 percent in the race for District 4 Freeholder.
The results are so close, that tallies may not be known until morning. The final result will not be official until certified by the Essex County Clerk's office.
While Luciano declared victory and thanked his supporters, Chiusolo, the deputy mayor of Cedar Grove, said it wasn't over yet, "It's a horse race. For me to declare victory or concede would be wrong at this point. Now it's a waiting game. It may be something that's challenged, we don't know what's going to happen at this point and it's too soon to say. It's my fight to win, which I'm confident I will."
However, Luciano, of West Caldwell, who is currently acting District 4 Freeholder, declared victory, saying he "couldn't be happier" with the result,"I want to thank the voters for electing me to serve a full three-year term. I pledge to work diligently on behalf of all the voters of District 4."
As of 11:52 p.m. on the Essex County Clerk website, Luciano remained ahead with 12,822 votes, or 50.43 percent. Chiusolo trailed slightly with 12,592, or 49.53 percent.
Luciano, in a telephone interview, offered praise to his opponent, with whom he had sparred during the contentious campaign, calling him "a viable and respected opponent."
"I'd like to thank Joe for giving voters in District 4 a choice," he said.
However, Chiusolo said the results were too close to declare victory or concede defeat. Chiusolo noted that in the districts that have so far reported results, he had won every town except Caldwell, which he says he lost by a three-vote margin.
It was a hard-fought contest between Chiusolo and Luciano, and an explosive confrontation at the end of a debate at Verona High School last month solidified the match-up as one to watch.
During the campaign, Chiusolo said spending by the county is "out of control", citing recent multimillion dollar projects undertaken by the county at the South Mountain Recreation Complex in West Orange, including a Big Cat zoo exhibit, a mini-golf safari and a Boathouse Restaurant opened late last month.
Luciano defended county spending projects as job-creating revenue generators which draw people to work, live and play in Essex County.
Republican insiders had said Chiusolo had a real chance to break into the Democrat-dominated Freeholder Board. If he emerges victorious when the election night dust settles, Chiusolo would be the first Republican to serve on the Freeholder Board since 2005.
District 4, geographically the largest Freeholder district in Essex County, encompasses Caldwell, Cedar Grove, West Caldwell, North Caldwell, Essex Fells, Fairfield, Livingston, Millburn, West Orange, Roseland and Verona.