Soriano Faces Reelection Year by Highlighting ‘Work Ethic’

Michael Soriano

Parsippany Mayor Michael Soriano thinks people in town know at least one thing about him.

“It’s hard for people to outwork me,” he says.

Working hard will come in handy as Soriano seeks reelection this year in Morris County’s most populous town. He was elected in 2017, but that was a good year for Democrats. In the wake of Chris Christie’s unpopular second term, Phil Murphy easily won election and his success filtered down to the local level; Soriano beat incumbent Republican Jamie Barberio by about 800 votes.

The overall landscape for the 2021 election – when Murphy again will be on the ballot – is unknown.

Soriano laid the foundation for his re-election campaign earlier this month during his annual “state of the township” address.

It was highlighted, naturally, by the pandemic. The mayor expressed sympathy for those who have suffered because of the virus, adding that the township has done well aiding a pandemic-stricken local economy. For example, he said the township moved swiftly to implement outdoor dining when it began last June.

Other than that, it seemed clear that Soriano wants to make open space a big issue.

Parsippany is large and sprawling, a place that some see as nothing more than a maze of highways and strip malls.

Perhaps because of that, Soriano spent a fair amount of time in his speech highlighting the fact that under his administration, the township has not sold “one square foot” of open land to developers. He said that is a welcome break from the past and has left some developers “frustrated.”

As for preservation, Soriano mentioned how a county grant will help preserve 30 acres off Knoll Road and how a long talked about plan to open the Jersey City Reservoir property to hikers finally is coming about. He spoke of the land around the iconic reservoir as “pristine open space waiting to be explored by residents.”

The mayor also takes credit for more honest budgeting, as opposed to what he said has been the past practice of using gimmicks to hold down property taxes in a mayoral election year.

The raw politics going forward are interesting.

Emily Peterson and Janice McCarthy, the two Democrats on the five-member council, are not seeking reelection. Soriano attributed it to COVID, suggesting the virus has influenced many people to concentrate on family health and other personal issues. McCarthy said she wants to pursue other opportunities, possibly in the environmental field.

Replacing them on the ticket will be Judy Hernandez and Cori Herbig, both of whom ran for council in 2019 and lost in a 6-person race for three seats. Hernandez and Herbig were 206 and 319 votes short respectively.

The Republican side seems unsettled and there are some variables in play.

There are three possible, if not likely, mayoral candidates. They are former mayor Barberio, Lou Valori, a former councilman and the chair of the local Republican Committee, and Chris Mazzerella, a local Little League coach.

In an obvious sign of the times, all possible candidates have created Facebook pages, which at least at the moment, are not overly political. Valori, however, often appears on videos with Justin Musella, who plans to run for council. Musella is chair of the Morris County Young Republicans.

As an overview, Morris County Republicans are in the midst of a battle royale about creating a “county line,” thereby allowing the county organization to endorse primary candidates.

It is unknown if that will happen. And if it does happen on the county level, it’s unknown if the local municipal committee would adopt a line as well. Clearly, this is something to watch.

Democrats have been winning more than they’ve been losing of late in Parsippany, but a bright spot for Republicans was 2019 when they held a 3-2 advantage on the council by winning all three open seats.

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