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Boonstra Defeats Boucher by Nearly 2-1 Margin

Mayor retains GOP line on the ballot in the fall, when he'll face Democrat Velez

Mayor Rudy Boonstra will vie for a second term on the Township Committee this fall after winning a primary challenge comfortably.

Boonstra defeated the Rev. Jeff Boucher Tuesday for the Republican nomination for a three-year governing body seat, to be contested in November against Democrat Dr. Henry Velez, a political newcomer. With all eight voting districts tabulated by 9 p.m., Boonstra defeated Boucher by a nearly 2-1 margin, unofficially garnering 997 votes to Boucher's 505.

Boonstra said Tuesday that he and the GOP organization made a case for his expertise and experience in various facets of township government, owed to more than 40 years of service to Wyckoff.

The mayor said he was "determined to run a positive campaign" highlighting his experience, which includes stints on both local school boards, the zoning board, years as a firefighter and service on nonprofit boards. The voters responded to recent accomplishments, Boonstra said, and were "happy with the way we handled the school budget defeat" as well as public participation in the Master Plan revision process, the pursuit of open space preservation, among other measures.

Boucher, the pastor of Powerhouse Christian Church, said the results were "disappointing" but plans to "be very involved in town."

The reverend is not yet sure of his political future but plans to serve where there's a need for his efforts.

Boucher conceded the race to Boonstra shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m. and congratulated him on running a good race. "I hope he governs the same way," Boucher said.

Boonstra was enjoying the victory with friends at the Brick House restaurant, but said the celebration was only a brief respite. "We're back at it tomorrow," he said, when the Planning Board holds a public hearing on Master Plan revisions. "A night like this is very rewarding."

Boucher, also the founder of Touch the World Ministries, said he will take a two-month sabbatical starting Wednesday to finish a book he's been working on, which is "pretty exciting for me." In addition to his pastoral duties, Boucher is the chaplain of the Wyckoff Police Department.

The primary challenge was almost averted after a challenge to Boucher's nomination petition, based on filing errors. The township Clerk's Office later affirmed a retired judge's opinion that the errors were sufficiently remedied, allowing Boucher to stay on the ballot.

As a candidate, Boucher "found it difficult to campaign," saying it was tough to "push myself" to voters.

"It goes against my grain," to promote personal accomplishments, said Boucher, who was making his first run for office.

Boonstra praised the efforts of local and county Republicans on his behalf, saying his victory was accomplished with the help of a "great organization" that will help mount a "full, concerted and positive campaign in the fall" against Velez.

The mayor won the support of each voting district in Wyckoff, with a 2-1 victory margin holding fairly consistently down the line. Township voters did not offer any write-in candidates for the Republican nomination.

Democrat Velez did not face a primary challenge but received 129 votes, while residents also submitted five write-ins on the Democratic line.

Voters had few other choices to make Tuesday, with the parties' slates for freeholder, sheriff and county executive all running without opposition. However, Republican voters were much more active at the polls, with the GOP candidates for freeholder—Francis Valenzuela, Maura DeNicola and John Felice—county executive (Kathleen Donovan) and sheriff (Michael Saudino) each garnering more than 1,000 votes from township voters. 

County Executive Dennis McNerney, a Democrat, only found 142 votes in Wyckoff, while the Dems' freeholder slate, James Carroll, Elizabeth Calabrese and John Hogan, received 130, 134 and 128 votes, respectively. Sheriff Leo McGuire also received 134 votes in Wyckoff.

Wyckoff voters supported Congressman Scott Garrett with 1,304 votes, although he was running in the GOP primary without opposition. His eventual opponent in the 5th District race will likely be Tod Theise, who was trouncing Anthony Iannarelli as of 10 p.m. Tuesday. Wyckoff voters also preferred Theise, 109-29.

Less than 14 percent of registered Wyckoff voters came to the polls Tuesday. 

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