PARSIPPANY – Jamie Barberio’s comeback, if you will, began in early March of last year.
That was when the former mayor showed up at a pre-pandemic township council meeting to lambaste Mayor Michael Soriano for blaming him (Barberio) for township fiscal woes. In fact, he called it “absurd.”
The assumption at the time was that Barberio was gearing up for a 2021 run against Soriano – the man who beat him by about 800 votes in 2017.
Now that assumption has become reality as Barberio filed his petition today to run for mayor beginning with the June 8 primary – beating the deadline by about four or five hours. This sets up a GOP primary battle between the former mayor and Lou Valori, a former councilman.
Some candidates deliberately file at the last minute, seeing it as a way to sneak up on their opponents.
That wasn’t the case here. Many Republicans in town have assumed Barberio was going to be running for some time. And they were surprised it took him so long to come forward.
Sources say one hold-up was getting ticketmates.
They turned out to be Frank Neglia and Deborah Orme, who both now sit on the board of education. Valori’s ticketmates are Gary Martin, a former school board member, and Justin Musella, who chairs the Morris County Young Republicans.
There were also rumors that a political newcomer, Chris Mazzarella, was going to run for mayor, but that has not materialized.
One fascinating event on tap concerns the Parsippany Republican Committee. The Morris County GOP just adopted a “county line,” thereby giving it the power to endorse candidates in the primary.
But local committees are not bound by that decision; they can do what they want.
Compounding the drama here is that the chair of the township GOP committee is Valori himself. You kind of think he probably wants the committee to endorse him, no?
This discussion presumably will unfold soon and it may be a bit acrimonious.
Barberio has stayed in public life since leaving the mayor’s office.
His first post-mayoral job was town administrator in Englewood Cliffs, a Bergen County town beset with fierce political infighting. Barberio left that post in early 2019.
He now serves as administrator in more peaceful Hunterdon County – splitting his time between the municipalities of Tewksbury and Lebanon.
Looking ahead, it’s hard to sensibly handicap the primary without knowing what the local committee will do.
But when we get to the fall, this is going to be a top-shelf race in the county’s largest township.
Democrats have done well in Parsippany of late. Joe Biden carried the town last year; as did Rep. Mikie Sherrill in both 2018 and 2020.
But Republicans did win the council race in 2019.