Following a tireless grassroots campaign, independent Democrat Jean Pierce fell short in the primary election Tuesday night, tallying 1,574 votes, about 900 fewer than the four incumbent at-large council members.
Incumbent Kyle Anderson, who was appointed to his seat in January by Mayor John McCormac, drew 2484 votes. His fellow Democrat council members Brenda Velasco got 2539 votes, followedby Gregg Ficarra with 2935 votes.
Council President James Carroll was the top vote getter with 2960 votes, rounding out the victors in the council race. The tally does not include figures from Ward 1, Precinct 2, which had a mechanical failure and was awaiting certification from the Middlesex County Board of Elections in New Brunswick.
The final certification is expected today, said Township Clerk John Mitch.
Pierce, who entertained about 40 friends, family, and supporters at the Garibaldi Mexican Restaurant on Main St. - directly across the street from a dark John McCormac campaign office - while awaiting the final tally, thanked those in attendance before announcing the final result shortly before 10 pm.
"We did not win tonight, but we gave it a hell of a try. We came within 900 votes, which in a town like Woodbridge is nothing to be ashamed of," Pierce said to her supporters.
Pierce was running for one of four at-large council seats as an independent Democrat after being unable to get on the ballot with the Democratic Party support. “Running off the line is very difficult in New Jersey,” said Pierce’s campaign manager Margarita Hernandez. “I think we ran a very strong grassroots campaign. She didn’t have the name recognition (early in the campaign) that an established politician has, and the results were very impressive.”
“I received a lot of positive feedback from the voters I connected with,” said Pierce of her time on the campaign trail. “I think there was a lot of need out there for attention from the council. People have issues, problems, and so I feel that the voters really understood where I was coming from and what my platform was. They were supportive.”
Pierce, who was appointed two years ago by Mayor John McCormac to the Woodbridge Housing Authority, said she intends to remain in that position. She was relaxed as the night wore on.
“Yesterday, I think I was more anxious,” she said. “Today, I felt that we had done all that we could….Today, I’m a lot calmer. I feel very strongly that we did the best that we could, we worked very hard over the past couple of months. Whatever the outcome, we worked hard. I’m proud of my supporters. I’m proud of my team.”
“Win, lose, or draw, we have nothing to be ashamed of,” she added.
Pierce made sure to thank the supports in attendance prior to the race results coming in, noting a group of teenagers and twenty-somethings in particular who were a huge help. “I want to thank this crew of young adults who have been on the ground for me,” she said, singling out one member in particular. “I walked with Josh on his birthday last week. He gave up his birthday. Whatever the results, I know you guys gave your all.”
So with the race over, what’s on the docket tomorrow for Pierce? “Sleeping,” she said with a laugh. “Tomorrow I plan on sleeping a lot. Personal time, time with my family. Just time to decompress.”