"It's my way of saying thank you to Mayor [Richard] Turner and the council," said Fuentes, who has lived in the township for more than 20 years. "I knew that there was nobody running against Turner, but that didn't mean I couldn't come and vote. I had to be here today for them, to show them that I appreciate what they do for us."
Fuentes wasn't alone. More than 1,400 registered voters (of a possible 7,000) took the time to cast a vote in the unopposed election last Tuesday.
Turner officially ran as a councilman-at-large, then will get reappointed as in the council/manager form of government for a fifth term. He received the most votes, with 1,416. Fellow Councilman At-Large Robert Zucconi received 1,386 votes. Carmela Silvestri Ehret (1st Ward), Rosemary Lavagnino (2nd Ward) and Robert Sosa (3rd Ward) also gained re-election.
"I was actually stunned by the turnout," Turner said. "We were estimating somewhere between 800 and 900. I am pleasantly surprised by it. It's a heavy turnout for an unopposed election. When I was going around recently, I kept reminding people to vote and everyone said that they would, but this is the highest we've ever had for an unopposed election."
In 2002, Turner received better than 2,800 votes, but that was with opposition from the Weehawken Initiative Now (WIN) ticket.
"I think this was a sign of support for the administration," said Turner, who despite not having a real campaign, held a victory party at the Weehawken Elks after the returns came in Tuesday night. "I think a lot of people who voted against us the last time voted for us this time. I think people feel comfortable with what we're doing and appreciate the services we're providing. I think this was a reward to the entire council for a job well done. It's extremely gratifying to see the number of people who came out to vote. It shows an excellent level of support."
Turner said that there were several factors as to why there was no opposition in the first place, then why there was such a good turnout in an unopposed election.
"We have a stable tax rate," Turner said. "We have made major strides in keeping the crime rate down. We have parks and playgrounds and we continue to rebuild them. The streets are clean. The development on the waterfront is moving forward. It's taking some time, but it's moving ahead. A new waterfront park is already under construction. We have a recreation program with most of the events being free of charge. People are seeing what we've been able to do and they appreciate that."
Lavagnino, who earned a third term with her victory, agreed.
"It's extremely gratifying to have people say 'Thank you' to us, when we're thanking them for voting," Lavagnino said. "I was absolutely ecstatic with the turnout. It's gratifying to run unopposed, but I never want to take my constituency for granted. I think this demonstrates that the people believe we have been acting responsibly. It's really a privilege to be a councilwoman in the town where I grew up and it's really like a dream come true."
Turner and the council will take their oaths of office on July 1 for another four-year term.