Fil-Am wins big in small New Jersey town

Rodneil Quiteles
Fil-Am wins big in small New Jersey town
Democrat Arvin Amatorio wins a council seat by garnering 2,947 votes after campaigning for less than two months

NEW JERSEY, USA –  Most Americans on Tuesday night waited for midterm election results to find out not only which political party would end up having control of the House of Representatives and the Senate, but also to see who the big winners are from their state – including governors and senators.

The Republican party gained control in both the House and Senate. But in Bergenfield, a relatively small town in northern New Jersey, just a few exits away from the George Washington Bridge, Filipinos focused mainly on one election result: whether Arvin Amatorio, possibly the only Filipino American running for political office in the East Coast in the November 4 election, would win a council seat.

Within half an hour after the polls closed at 8 pm, a group of supporters gathered at a law office on South Washington Avenue heard the results.  

Democrat Arvin Amatorio won a council seat by garnering 2,947 votes, while his running mate Council president Christopher Tully got 2,972 votes. Their opponents, Republican Councilwoman Kathleen Sahlberg received 2,057 votes and former Councilwoman Patricia Walsh-Nardini got 1,962 votes, respectively.

The local headline read, “Democrats Sweep Bergenfield Council Race”. A small consolation for the political party which lost control of both the Senate and the House.

“The truth is, when we were campaigning we always emphasized to people that we are the local guys,” said Amatorio. “There were a lot of rejection initially when we were campaigning. People telling us that we are spending too much and we brought the country to a downfall. So we worked hard reminding people that our record in town speaks for itself. That we have done a lot and we managed to avoid financial problems that other towns have.”


In his DNA

The local Democratic Party invited Amatorio, an immigration lawyer who has lived in Bergenfield since 2007 with his wife and son, to help them with the election campaign in 2013 for two open council seats and mayoral seat. Ever since, the party has asked him to think about running for office.

Amatorio said he never planned to run for office but in September, just less than two months before the midterm election, a democratic party candidate for councilman withdrew. Amatorio, whose mother served as a councilwoman in Baler, said he saw it as a great opportunity.  

“I guess it’s in my DNA,” he said.  

Amatorio signed up but not without controversy. Ira Treuhaft, chairman of the Bergenfield Republican County Committee, attempted to block Amatorio’s petition for candidacy, claiming there were not enough valid signatures on the petition.

The Bergen County Clerk’s Office Elections Division disagreed. Amatorio had less than two months to campaign and won. – 

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