Republicans Kevin Rooney and Chris DePhillips won three-year Township Committee seats by a wide margin Tuesday, defeating Brian Hubert and Diane Sobin.
Unofficially, DePhillips gained the most support from Wyckoff voters, with 3,474 votes. Rooney followed closely behind, at 3,326. Hubert, who narrowly lost election to the committee last year, came in third at 2,463 votes, and Sobin garnered support on 2,016 ballots. However, write-in votes had yet to be counted, although the 340 expected ballots would not impact the final tally.
Rooney and DePhillips, who will assume elected positions for the first time, attributed their clear victory to listening to voters' concerns.
"We spoke to the issues that the community is concerned with," DePhillips said, mentioning property taxes, budgeting and Smart Growth.
They felt that their efforts to engage the community paid off at the polls.
"We wanted to hear from the entire population," said Rooney, who estimated that the future governing body members knocked on 80 to 90 percent of doors in the township. "We reached out to everyone."
DePhillips labeled the campaign strategy as "old-fashioned," in that they simply sought to tell residents "what we stand for."
Both teams spent much of the campaign talking about similar issues: the need for Smart Growth, open space preservation and responsible budgeting. Hubert and Sobin had been surprised at the Republicans' campaign platform, charging that Rooney and DePhillips were late to some issues, especially open space and Smart Growth.
"They recognized what the voters are interested in," Sobin said. In that sense, the "residents won," said Hubert, who hopes that "what they've said, they will act on."
Although Sobin and Hubert expressed disappointment in the final tally, both said they intend to remain engaged on the issues and will work to "hold them" to their promises of responsible development and open space preservation.
Hubert, a Democrat, said "our opponents did a very good job of energizing the party," on an election day that was shaping up to end with a victory for Republican Chris Christie for governor.
DePhillips said some voters were "frightened" that Sobin and Hubert would "lead the town in the wrong direction." He and Rooney attributed the win to being responsive to the concerns of the public and said Wyckoff will "see a new style of leadership."
The election leaves the governing body firmly in GOP hands, with a lone Democrat, Brian Scanlan, who supported Sobin and Hubert's candidacies.
Scanlan expressed congratulation to Rooney and DePhillips on the win and says he "looks forward" to working with them and expects to find common ground, as the three have "big overlap" on issues.
Sobin and Hubert had made the case to voters that a vote for DePhillips and Rooney was a vote for the "entrenched" party in the township. To the contrary, DePhillips said he and Rooney will "bring new perspectives" to the governing body, which also will feature current members Rudy Boonstra and Dave Connolly. Mayor Joe Fiorenzo and Committeeman Richard Alnor, both Republicans, decided against running this year.
Rooney's election will mean that the zoning Board of Adjustment will get a new chairman next year. Both he and DePhillips said it is too early to name any committee liaison assignments they may be interested in, saying they will have to sit down with their future colleagues. The Republicans also will join the committeemen in filling board appointments; both Sobin and Hubert said they are interested in serving on one of the volunteer bodies, such as the Planning Board.
Going forward, Sobin said she "will be there organizing the community." She also said you "can't rule anything out" when asked if she would consider again making a run for office.
DePhillips and Rooney have approximately two months before assuming office. Rooney said it will be a "learning process" but both intend to attend committee meetings, study the budget and attend the League of Municipalities convention later this month as official Wyckoff representatives.