Peter Capitano has led a full life. The jovial, loquacious physical ed teacher retired two years ago from Iselin's , where by all accounts he was a popular teacher. Now he's running for the , and he's got few regrets.
One of them, though, is a handwritten letter he sent out, looking for support in his Board of Ed run.
The contents of the letter cost him his place on a three-man slate of candidates running for three spots in this year's BOE race.
"Yeah, that was a mistake," Capitano said of the letter. Pete, as he's known to his many friends, sent the letter to Woodbridge resident Tom Maras, asking for his support.
Maras, who ran for the BOE himself last year, brought the letter to the attention of the board and public, and it caused a firestorm.
"[Maras] ran to the superintendent [John Crowe], he handed it out at a board meeting. It caused all kind of problems," Capitano said.
'Get out' of the race
In the letter, Capitano did more than just ask for Maras' help in his BOE run. He predicts that two current board members running for reelection, Lawrence Miloscia and Judy Leidner, will both "get out" of the race if they get certain perks.
Miloscia "is looking for a watchmen's job in the town garage. If he gets it, he will get out of the race," Capitano wrote. He also refers to Leidner's husband, who is on the Woodbridge police department.
Leidner "is looking for her husband to get a promotion from sergeant to lieutenant in the Police Department before he retires for his pension. If he gets it, she will get out," he wrote.
"I had no end of grief because of that letter," Capitano said, adding that if he ever wrote such a letter again, he'd type it - presumably so he'd have plausible deniability.
Neither Miloscia nor Leidner could be reached for comment.
The 'green light' to run
Capitano, who was going to run for the Board last year, dropped off at the last minute. In the undated letter, he writes that this time, he "got the green light" to run.
That's because last year, he was worried about his son, who holds a tradesman position in the school district.
Capitano was told "not to run"; if he didn't, he said, his son's job might be imperiled.
Peter Capitano Jr., his father said proudly, has been working as a carpenter in the district for 24 years. His last salary was reported at approximately $81,000.
Would his son be fired if Capitano didn't play ball?
"No, but they would just eliminate his position," he said.
Capitano at first wouldn't say exactly who gave him the 'green light' for a run this year, or who told him he couldn't run last year.
"I can't say that. You don't know what these people will do to you," he said, his voice in a panic. "The Democratic organization, the Democrats...I'm not saying who. You can guess who."
Mayor John McCormac, Capitano said, "was all upset with me because of that letter. He didn't like it. He was mad at me."
Right after the letter came out, Capitano said he was forced off the ticket that included incumbent BOE member Ezio Tamburello and Daniel Harris, a legislative aide who works for Assemblyman Craig Coughlin - who in turn serves as the Woodbridge Council's attorney.
McCormac didn't return repeated calls for comment.
'They can make you do anything'
Capitano is popular in Iselin. He doesn't think that the fallout from the letter, or him being dropped from the three-man team, will affect his chances of winning in November.
"I got a little bit of an edge because I have a school background. A lot of people know me," he said, adding he'd be out stumping for support before the first week in September was out.
The only reason he had held off was because he was waiting for the deadline to pass in which he could voluntarily take his name off the ballot.
Why was that an issue?
"You don't know these people," Capitano said, referring to the same folks he feared might put his son's BOE job in jeopardy. "They can make you do anything.
"If I wait 'til it's past the deadline, then they can't force me off the ballot."