A heated contest for two school board seats ends with newcomer Jennifer Howe and incumbent Joseph Nardini earning the most votes out of six candidates, according to unofficial results.
The unofficial results, which include ballots cast today and mail-in ballots received as of today:
- Jennifer Howe, 9,288.
- Joseph Nardini, 8,272.
- Christopher Raimann, 7,550.
- Danielle LeBright, 6,907.
- Erica Cirillo, 6,886.
- Robert Onofreitti, 5,977.
Howe, a parent of six children, five of whom currently attend Toms River Regional, and is a regular speaker and attendee at school board meetings.
Incumbent Nardini, is a 45-year resident of Toms River, and current board vice president. He is a longtime business owner in Ocean County and also chairs the building and grounds committee for the school district.
There were six candidates running for two seats on the board, with three slates campaigning: Christopher Raimann and Jennifer Howe as Transparency, Tradition, Truth; Joseph Nardini and Danielle LeBright as Working Together slate; and Robert Onofreitti and Erica Cirillo as the Children, Community First slate.
Raimann and Nardini are incumbents, while Onofreitti previously served on the board but was unsuccessful in his last re-election bid.
The seats represent Toms River and are full, three-year terms.
The Toms River school board race was a heavily divisive campaign that even saw a current school board member urging voters to not vote for an incumbent. Board member Daniel Leonard who represents Beachwood released an opinion piece decrying Raimann as beholden to local party bosses not board constituents.
Nardini, who previously was Raimann’s runningmate, also criticized Raimann for his campaign literature as misrepresenting how each voted on board issues. Raimann apologized to his former runningmate publicly.
The school district is also facing major financial decisions after the state announced a heavy cut to state aid over several years. The district is also planning for a January referendum to pay for repairs and upgrades to its aging infrastructure.
The South Toms River seat on the regional school board was also up for grabs this year. The unofficial results show Incumbent Gigi Esparza losing her seat against newcomer Anna Polozzo, a district parent very active at school board meetings and its subcommittees. Polozzo worked to spread information on how residents could fight alongside the district in its lost state aid.
According to unofficial results, Polozzo earned 461 votes to Esparza’s 295.
Results are unofficial until certified next week, said County Clerk Scott Colabella. What’s more, this year a change in election law means mail-in ballots arriving tomorrow and Thursday, postmarked by today, can still be counted. That means the total number of mail-in ballots and their results are not yet known or part of the above totals, said the clerk.
Provisional ballot totals are released Wednesday.