Clifton Voters Choose Change in Surprising Election


For months now, candidates for the Clifton Board of Education, County Clerk, County Commissioners, as well as our state representatives have been campaigning for your votes. Although early votes, absentee ballots, and mail-in ballots may not fully be included in the numbers, preliminary results are in and suggest that Clifton voters were mostly ready for some changes in the city. County results remained extremely close as we passed midnight, as Republicans closed in on Democrats for the County Clerk and Commissioner seats. Paterson’s votes were the last to be reported.

As of midnight, the winners for the Board of Education seem to be newcomer Joseph Siano, newcomer Tanya Suarez, and returning BOE commissioner Joe Canova. Incumbents are generally at a big advantage due to name recognition and the surprising results of this election seem to indicate discontent with the status quo and a desire to see some new faces and hear new ideas. Some voters were surprised when Joe Canova missed out on being reelected in the last election and today’s results suggest that a majority wanted to rectify that. “I am excited and thankful for this opportunity. Clifton is a place where I grew up and now I am afforded the opportunity once more to serve in a greater capacity,” Canova said of the unofficial results.

Suarez, who has a son in second grade in the school district, campaigned on her slogan, “Let Teachers Teach.” Her decades of service to children and families and warm, approachable demeanor paid off in this, her first run for a seat on the Clifton Board of Education. “Honestly, I’m so truly humbled and appreciative for every single person who supported me through kind words, in seeing my passion for education, in telling others about me, who believed that I had a shot, who endorsed me, and of course who voted for me,” she said on Election night, as the unofficial votes came in.

Joseph Siano, another newcomer to the ballot, entered the election with a large following as a lifelong resident, local realtor, and active member of the community. Siano proved to be an excellent public speaker, easily handling the pressures of answering questions during live forum events and sharing his vision for the district with clarity and confidence. “I could not have done this without the support that I have had from the community, listening to what I want to do and getting behind me. I could not be more grateful to my supporters and I promise to do everything in my power to make my supporters proud,” he said.

In what appears to be a huge win for Clifton, the unofficial results also indicate that a majority of voters supported the Open Space Tax, which would establish an Open Space Fund. This fund, twice rejected by voters, can be used for preserving and improving green spaces, playgrounds, farmlands, and other projects that fall under the allowed uses. A committee of residents will be formed to oversee this fund if the official results remain in favor and that committee will make recommendations for how the money should be used.

In county elections, Clifton Councilwoman Rosemary Pino put up a solid effort in her attempt to unseat incumbent Danielle Ireland-Imhof as the County Clerk, spending considerable time connecting with the large Hispanic populations in the county. Results for much of the night were too close to call, with Pino temporarily holding a fractional lead before Paterson’s results were reported. Once all districts’ results had been reported, Ireland-Imhof came out ahead by a little more than 3,000 votes. The County Commissioner seats remain with Democrats Bruce James and Orlando Cruz.

District 27, which now includes Clifton as the lone municipality in Passaic County, indicates more decisive results and it appears the district will be represented by Democrat John McKeon in the State Senate and fellow Democrats Rosy Bagolie and Alixon Collazos-Gill as our representatives in the Assembly. You can read about them in this story, covered in September.

As has been the case in previous elections, the total votes cast in Clifton represent a small percentage of registered voters. According to statistics from 2020, Clifton had almost 58,000 registered voters. Total votes on the public question regarding the Open Space Fund indicate that fewer than 9,000 of those voters cast a ballot, or about 15.5%. Low voter turnout has long been a problem and non-presidential races always see lower participation. County-wide turnout was higher, with slightly more than 20% of registered voters casting a ballot.

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