This article was updated with a statement from the Sackett-Gable, Callahan and Meyer campaign, and from Jeffrey Bennett and Tony Mazzocchi.
The Essex County Clerk has released the unofficial results of the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education election, including the tally of write-in votes.
“Attached are unofficial results for Maplewood/South Orange Board of Education,” wrote Chris Durkin in an email to Village Green on Thursday at around 2 p.m. “Vote by Mail Ballots are accepted through the mail up till 6 days after Election Day as long as they are postmarked on Election Day or prior. Provisional ballots are currently in the verification process.”
According to the results, Shayna Sackett-Gable, Liz Callahan and Will Meyer decisively won, garnering a combined total of more than 15,325 votes, or just over 80% of total votes cast. (Note: this story originally reported the Clerk’s tally of 19,051, which appears to be a tally of all votes for all candidates. Village Green is following up with the Clerk.)
Write-in candidates Jeffrey Bennett and Tony Mazzocchi received a combined total of 3,216 votes, or just over 16% of total votes cast.
See the full Summary Report below, attached as a PDF.
Village Green reported that Sackett-Gable, Callahan and Meyer were the likely winners on Election Night (Tuesday, 11/7), and projected the slate had won on Wednesday using data provided by the Essex County Clerk’s office that showed an insurmountable gap based on the number of ballots cast.
In response to an email on Wednesday, Durkin explained the process of counting write-in votes: “The Board of Elections has two Republican representatives and two Democratic representatives. The adjudication process is overseen by a [D]emocratic and Republican representative….Vote by Mail ballots can be counted up to 6 days after Election Day as long as they are postmarked Election Day or prior. For 11 days after Election Day voters can ‘cure’ their ballot and have it counted by updating [their] signature or including their signature if they did not sign their [vote by mail].”
Sackett-Gable, Callahan and Meyer sent the following statement:
We are in receipt of the unofficial election results from the Clerk of Essex County and are gratified that we received more than 80% of the total votes for Board of Education. We are humbled and honored by this level of support from our fellow community members, and are enthusiastic to join the BOE and begin the serious work that lies ahead.
We want to thank the many people who actively supported our campaign, both our longtime friends and the neighbors who were energized by our message and vision for the district. We would not have made it where we are today without your help – this victory is yours as well. And we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the sacrifices made by our families during this campaign. We are so grateful for your unwavering support and supreme patience.
We also want to acknowledge Jeff Bennett and Tony Mazzocchi for running a spirited write-in campaign, and to their supporters for the energy and passion they brought to this race. We found much more agreement than differences between our platforms, and we will be focused on uniting our community as we pursue our shared goals.
Our district faces significant challenges as we near the beginning of our new term. We will be hiring a superintendent at the same time as we implement the numerous initiatives currently in process while ensuring the district stays focused on progress. We look forward to joining with our six continuing board members in this important work and building consensus to expeditiously pursue these important goals.
Our vision has been guided by the many varied community voices we’ve heard during our campaign, and we will continue to need and seek that support, guidance, and critical feedback as we move forward. As we said in our slogan, we truly believe that together, we will thrive.
Tony Mazzocchi sent the following statement:
My heart is filled with gratitude and humility having embarked on this journey as a write-in candidate for our Board of Education. The outcome of this election has been a testament to the strength of our community and the power of grassroots democracy.
I want to express my profound appreciation for the support and votes I have received; to see so many of our neighbors come together to support my candidacy has been truly inspiring. I believe in contested elections, I believe in open dialogue with the community, and I believe in the importance of diverse perspectives in shaping our educational system. I also believe deeply in the power of public schools, especially in our wonderful towns. Jeff and I offered an alternative view along with solutions to many of the problems ailing our schools, and the votes cast assured me that our community felt they were given a choice and a voice because of our candidacy.
While our campaign may not have secured victory this time, I believe that our collective efforts have made a significant impact. The significant number of votes we garnered sends a powerful message that change is desired and that our community is deeply invested in the future of our schools. Thank you to all of the volunteers who helped me and Jeff over the past month, and thank you to every single community member who wrote in my name with intention. I am humbled by your support, and I will continue my involvement and advocacy on behalf of all children in our district.
I extend my congratulations to Shayna, Elizabeth, and Will, who will now assume the responsibility of representing our community on the Board of Education. I hope they will carry our shared concerns and aspirations forward with dedication and sincerity.
As we move forward, I encourage all of you to remain actively engaged in the educational process. Your involvement is essential to drive positive change, and together, we can do the actual hard work necessary to address the multitude of challenges we face — our children deserve that.
I am not just grateful for the support I have received; I am deeply inspired by it. Let us continue to channel this inspiration into constructive action, and let’s finally strive to meet our potential as a district that has been eluding us for far too long. Thank you for joining me in this journey, and for your unwavering commitment to SOMSD’s future.
Jeffrey Bennett sent the following statement:
Although the vote counting will not be completed until next week, the winners of this election are Shayna Sackett-Gable, Elizabeth Callahan, and William Meyer. I congratulate them on joining the Board of Education. I know that Shayna, Liz, and Will are ready to do the hard work that board membership requires and will be highly attentive board members. I wish them the best because their success as board members is the success of the entire community.
Every board of education election is different, but this one is “more different” than usual because Tony and I were write-ins. I knew we were underdogs, but the goal of the campaign was to initiate a dialogue on issues that were being ignored, propose solutions that weren’t being considered, and to be an expressive vote for voters whose views were not represented by the balloted candidates.
I’m proud that we ran an issues-oriented campaign that proposed many viable solutions, particularly for our bussing and III placement problems. I hope that our campaign, and the strong showing we made, will be something the nine board members and new superintendent bear in mind as they make decisions for the community in the next year.
I lost this election, but my deep commitment to the school district and interest in doing research for the district continue. Therefore, this week’s loss is just a landmark, not a finish line, and certainly not a “retirement.” My youngest child is only in PreK, so I have thirteen years left to go of direct SOMSD involvement. I plan to continue doing what I can to provide information to the community. I will also continue my independent activism for a fairer state aid law for New Jersey.
Democracy is a team sport, and Tony and I are honored to give a HUGE THANKS to the community we live in, our voters, and our amazing volunteers. I give a special thanks to my wife Megan, who put up with my distraction and campaign absences in the last month.
Again, I congratulate Will, Liz, and Shayna on their victory and wish them well.
Village Green will continue to update this story.