The Hammonton Republicans haven’t begin in control of Town Council since the Independent Hammonton First Party was first formed in 2005.
That will likely change once Nov. 3 results are certified by the Atlantic County Board of Elections. According to the unofficial results, Republican Joe Giralo received the most votes with 1,587, while incumbent Mickey Pullia garnered 1,534 votes to flip the council to Republican control by a margin of 4-3.
Hammonton First incumbent and current Deputy Mayor Tom Gribbin was the lone winner from his ticket, receiving 1,531 votes.
The Republicans have campaigned during the past few elections on the message that council needed to better manage the town’s money, and that message resonated and was heard by enough voters this year. Come January, Republicans will control the power on council.
“I’m extremely excited, but I’m humbled by the overwhelming support of the people of Hammonton,” Giralo said. “I’m very much looking forward to January, hitting the ground running. I’ve been asking a lot of questions already, reading and doing what I need to do.”
With the top two vote-getters being Republican, Giralo believes that the people expect council to change, especially when it comes to fiscal responsibility.
“I do think there is significance (in the win),” Giralo said. “I believe people want to know where their money is being spent and how it is being spent. I think they want to see progress made throughout the entire town. That is my goal. That is my personal goal.”
Despite Hammonton First being the majority party the past decade, most votes the past few years were unanimous, and it was rare there was even one dissenting vote. Whether it not that changes in 2016 is still in uncertain, but both sides vow to work for the best interest of the town rather than the parties.
“Anyone for the betterment of Hammonton, I’m in with,” said Hammonton Mayor Steve DiDonato, a Hammonton First member. “We will do whatever we have to to get (behind) the same idea to better the town.”
“I will work with all members of mayor and council for the benefit of the community,” Giralo said. “If there is something that I disagree with, I will certainly explain why I disagree with it. We have a town to run, and it’s big business.”
For Gribbin, his victory was somewhat bittersweet. Although he won, neither Hammonton First incumbent Ed Wuillermin nor newcomer Elsie Baez was victorious.
Wuillermin, a founding member of the party, finished 39 votes behind Gribbin while Baez finished sixth in the seven-candidate race with 992 votes. Republican Otto Hernandez finished fifth overall with 1,195 votes and Democrat Rock Colasurdo, who served on past councils as both a Republican and a Hammonton First candidate, finished with 854 votes.
“I appreciate the confidence the residents have in me and my abilities to continue to serve on council,” Gribbin said. “Like I said ever since I got involved, I want to do what is right for the town of Hammonton, and I care only about the issues that affect our town. Whether or not Hammonton First is in the majority, I will continue to keep the care and concerns of our residents first and foremost.”
Wuillermin appreciates the town giving him a chance to serve over the years, and hopes to stay involved in some capacity.
“There is plenty of stuff on my plate to keep me going and keep me engaged, and as far as the town, I hope to stay involved on some level,” he explained. “There is a lot problems that the town is facing, and I just hope the people coming in know and deal with some of the things we are dealing with now.”