North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco and challenger Larry Wainstein exchanged their final blows this afternoon as the municipal elections head to the championship rounds.
“He’s tried to divide the town, the last two times he ran, into Spanish and non-Spanish. He’s tried to make it a racial issue in town. He’s really been spewing hate, that’s what he’s been doing … that’s disgraceful,” Sacco said shortly after voting at 9060 Palisade Ave.
The incumbent also called Wainstein “an obstructionist” for his lawsuit blocking a school expansion plan backed by the administration, as well as reiterating a claim that his team has thrown out since 2015: that the challenger really lives in Franklin Lakes.
This time around, Wainstein has focused a lot of his campaign around the potential negative impacts from a $1.8 billion power plant project, which Sacco said was far from a done deal and called many of the conclusions Wainstein presented as falsehoods.
“You’re going to sit around and defend a power plant? It sounds bad. They show a picture of smokestacks. It’s not true,” Sacco stated.
“Knowing the accuracy, he said something like it’s going to spew ‘hundreds of tons of cancer.’ That’s the actual phrase he used. It’s almost bizarre, but you can’t defend against it because it’s not our plan.”
Sacco, who bested Wainstein by a margin of about 65 percent to 35 percent in 2015, wasn’t ready to call it in the air but still expressed a cool confidence when asked about how this one will end.
“No, no, I don’t predict. Let’s go out and just win,” he responded.
Meanwhile, Wainstein was at the front of the same building with a dozen or so supporters who all seemed fired up about the prospect of change.
“They [residents] don’t want the power plant in our community. My mission is to stop the power plant that’s going to be producing over 6.2 million pounds of toxic waste,” he said, also saying he didn’t care if the township with receive lucrative tax credits for hosting the project.
Wainstein, whose school expansion plan involves converting the parking lot of the current high school, located at 7417 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, into another learning center, said he never though twice about rematching Sacco even though the 2015 race didn’t end how he had planned.
“We’ve been going door to door. We’ve been meeting with thousands of residents, with the people of North Bergen, and the people are ready for change. We’ve had the same administration for over 35 years and there hasn’t been any improvements in North Bergen.”
Sacco, who is seeking his eighth term, is favored to win, but like last time, Wainstein is making it a scrap, showing off a robust GOTV operation on main thoroughfares such as Bergenline Avenue and John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
The mayor doesn’t appear to be taking anything for granted though, as Democratic committee members from Jersey City, Union City and other nearby communities have been lending the incumbents some helping hands.
The North Bergen municipal elections allow voters to select five commissioners (10 are running) and the polls are open until 8 p.m.