The day after the 2012 general election in Parsippany, both political parties face new realities in the wake of Democrat Jonathan Nelson's victory over Republican Judy Tiedemann for the Township Council seat now held by James Vigilante.
For the Democrats, who see the first council member from their party in nearly 30 years, it's a time of joy.
"Wow," said Nelson, admitting that he was "speechless."
"I just want to thank everyone who worked really hard and long, long hours to help me in winning this," he told supporters at the Parsippany Elks Club. "I've said all along that I thought we could win this, but it wasn't until we did that we could prove it."
"We want to go further and forward into the future," he said, promising to serve all of Parsippany's residents regardless of party affiliation. "This is the first building block."
Nelson added congratulations to Tiedemann.
"Mrs. Tiedemann ran a good campaign and I thank her for caring about this town," he said.
The mood was decidedly different at Lake Parsippany Rescue and Recovery, where the Parsippany Republican Party counted results. Throughout the night, members alternately cheered or emitted sounds of frustration as Nelson and Tiedemann switched the lead position in what was a neck and neck race.
As the vote count continued, many reliably GOP districts gave wins or strong showings to Nelson, and in the end, the Democrat's ability to win the support of his own party as well as Republicans and Independents made the difference.
"This is a bittersweet moment," said Morris County Freeholder John Cesaro, fresh from his own victory. "Clearly something in this party is broken, and we're going to fix it."
Tiedemann, in her concession speech, congratulated Nelson and wished him luck in serving the people of Parsippany. She also thanked Mayor James Barberio for his support.
In an emotional address, however, she placed blame for her loss on one thing:
"There are good Republicans and there are bad Republicans," she said.
Barberio then spoke angrily, blasting Nelson's campaign against what the candidate called a "rubber-stamp Council" and calling it "bull."
The mayor asked Tiedemann to rest and to consider running for the council seat when it comes up for an election in 2013.
"Jonathan Nelson's just keeping your seat warm for you," he said.
Freeholder Ann Grossi, also visibly angry, also took aim at Nelson.
"The mayor's right, that Jonathan Nelson is just warming your seat," she said. "Next year, I am running for re-election, Jamie is running for re-election, and you're going to be on our ticket and we're going to win."
For his part, retiring Councilman Vigilante praised Tiedemann.
"She's a wonderful woman," he said. "I supported her, put up signs, as did Lou Valori [whom Tiedemann bested for the GOP nomination for council].
"The Republican leadership failed Judy," Vigilante said. "She was set up for failure. They wanted to put up a candidate against Lou Valori. The Republican leadership in this town and some folks on the county level put their personal interests above the party. The result is that we now have a Democratic council member."
The party should learn from the experience, he said.
"If nothing else, I hope this teaches us all a lesson about the word loyalty," said Vigilante.
"It keeps you alive in the desert—and keeps you elected."