Pitzer Spotlights

2004-2005 Spotlight Archives

Dan Baer '81 Wins Millburn New Jersey Township Seat in Election Recount

Baer wins, Seelbach loses

(this article originally appeared in theitemonline.com on Friday, November 26, 2004)

Dan Baer and familyThree weeks after residents went to the polls to elect two members of the Millburn [New Jersey] Township Committee, a recount of votes in what became a contested election, shows Daniel Baer has won one of two seats on the governing body.

According to the Essex County Board of Elections, a recount conducted Tuesday at incumbent Linda Seelbach’s request put Seelbach eight votes behind her Democratic Party challenger, Baer.

The recount put Baer’s final tally at 4,900. Seelbach, a Republican, finished third in the race for the two Committee seats with a total of 4,892 votes. Her running mate, Mayor Thomas C. McDermott, clinched his re-election earlier with 5,326 votes.

Board of Elections Clerk Linda Von Nessi said Tuesday Baer, who led Seelbach by just five votes before the recount, picked up three additional votes when absentee ballots were tabulated for the second time. Von Nessi said Tuesday’s recount has been certified and that any further dispute of the election results would have to be carried out in the courts.

Seelbach said Tuesday one ballot that had been held out of the initial count for further examination was included in the final count.

She did not concede the election, saying only, “At this point, I do not plan any action.” She made the point a continued fight over the election results in the courts could go on indefinitely and added that while she had spoken with McDermott, the decision not to contest the final results was hers alone.

“With the narrow difference, a recount was merited and certainly called for,” Seelbach said. “The (Board of Election) workers did an excellent and professional job.”

Informed of the results, McDermott expressed his disappointment.

“It’s unfortunate to lose by such a small margin,” he said. “It’s not easy to go through for 21 days, being a two-term incumbent. I give Linda a lot of credit. To have all that uncertainty and lose by so little.”

McDermott praised Seelbach for being a team player and expressed hope that she would remain active in the township. “I would hope we as a Committee would find something for her. She’s given a lot of years of service.”

He analyzed the election as reflecting changing demographics in the township. The mayor also said he believed Baer’s campaign received a boost from the presidential election, and benefited from Democrat John Kerry’s strong showing locally.

“Linda won the machine votes and Baer won the absentee and provisional votes,” McDermott said. “There are a lot of college students voting absentee and I would bet they’re Kerry supporters.”

McDermott also noted there was a new style of campaigning in this year’s election. He pointed to “stepped-up” support from the Democratic Party as contributing to a more organized approach to the local campaign.

“They stepped-up their fund-raising,” he said. “They looked to professionals to help fund their campaign. It had always been done by individuals and at the community level.”

The mayor also pointed to the lack of a Republican opponent to face Congressman Donald Payne in the 10th Congressional District as a further handicap.

“Now we have to put this behind us and move ahead,” McDermott said. “I will congratulate Dan and ask for his support on the Committee. After all, we’re all in this for the same reason, and that is to pursue the same goal of improving the town.”

Republican Committee chairman Alan Kral could not be reached for comment by the time The Item went to press yesterday.

Baer could not be reached for comment either. Local Democratic Committee chairman Nicholas Romano said the winning candidate was out of town on family business.

Romano said Baer’s victory was achieved through a coalition of voters that comprised all party lines.

“Dan was an exceptional candidate,” Romano said. “He worked very hard and tried innovative things, such as using a Web site and conducting a survey.” During the campaign, Baer also aired commercials on public access television.

Romano said Baer’s survey helped him identify taxes as the major concern of residents. During a candidates forum conducted this fall, both Republican candidates said the major issue facing the township was security.

“Dan knew all along that ‘taxes’ was up there,” Romano said, adding Baer is considering keeping his Web site operational as a sounding board for public opinion.