Reprinted from the Daily Record ---
PARSIPPANY - An ice storm failed to keep the township's big election year from heating up on Sunday as Democrat Michael Soriano became the first candidate to officially declare his bid for the mayor's office in 2017
"I'm running for one reason, to clean up Parsippany," said Soriano, a Lake Hiawatha resident. "Our government is pervaded by backroom deals, by entities that are not interested in the people of Parsippany ... Our elected officials, these petty feuds that have been going on in town hall that for a while now that have just made Parsippany so interesting to the press, I'll tell you this, and I'll paraphrase a friend of mine. I want to make Parsippany boring again."
Soriano is a past chairman and vice chairman and currently executive director of the township Democratic party, but has never run for public office. That all changed on Sunday with his announcement before a standing-room-only crowd of about 80 people at the Parsippany Rescue and Recovery Building.
"This was never part of the plan," he said. "I did not intend to run for office. I thought I would just stay as an electrician. But right now, what I'm seeing, what's been happening in Parsippany over the past few years, I think there needs to be changes in town hall."
Democrat Michael Soriano announces his campaign for mayor of Parsippany at Parsippany Rescue and Recovery building on February 12, 2017. Alexandra Pais/ The Daily Record (Photo: Alexandra Pais)
Holding a degree in administration from John Jay College, and by trade a foreman, sub-foreman and superintendent in the electrical industry, Soriano does have a lifetime of experience in public service.
"My volunteering began when I was a child," he said. "I'm an Eagle Scout and volunteering and being a part of the community is a requirement for that. I've been active in my union and my community for quite some time. I ran a community center up in Washington Heights in Manhattan. Since being in Parsippany, I've been active in the party for years."
Democrats traditionally fight an uphill battle in Parsippany, where a two-term Republican mayor leads a council that has not had a Democratic member since Councilman Jonathan Nelson lost his mayoral bid against incumbent James Barberio in 2013.
Since then, Democrats have tightened the voter-registration gap in Morris County's largest municipality, but the GOP still lead by a margin of about 11,000 to 9,000, according to Morris County Democratic Committee Chairman Chip Robinson.
"The Democratic turnout is usually down in odd, years, but because of Democratic frustration with (President) Trump and (Gov.) Christie, we think Democratic turnout is going to be equivalent or higher than Republican turnout in 2017," Robinson said.
Robinson also pointed out that despite the Republican voter advantage, Hillary Clinton won the 2016 presidential vote in Parsippany over Trump, and Barack Obama won the township twice.
Moreover, "A lot of you may not know this, but since 1966, every mayor except for two were Democrats in this town," Robinson observed. "One of those two Republicans (Frank Priore) resigned (in 1994, following his conviction on federal corruption charges). And the other is going to be defeated in about 11 months."
Robinson continued to discuss voter demographics, but concluded by saying the most important reason he feels his party can "take Parsippany back" is because "we have an exceptional candidate for mayor. One of the things I love about our candidate is that he treats everyone like brothers and sisters. He's a union member, so it makes sense he would do that."
Soriano said he learned about how friends and family treat people in Parsippany after the community came out to help his family after their home in Lower Lake Hiawatha was flooded by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. That experience cemented his love for the town he moved to to be with his girlfriend in 2002.
"The day that I moved in, i got down on my knee and asked her to marry me," he said, speaking if his wife, Jennifer, with whom he now has an 11-year-old daughter. "We stayed here for love, because when it came time to say 'Let's get a house and start a family,' we decided this was the place we wanted to do it. We trusted this community to raise our family."
Barberio confirmed last month that he intends to run for re-election and is planning a formal announcement later this month. Council Vice President Robert Peluso has been rumored as a candidate to oppose Barberio in this year's Republican primary, but maintains only that he is continuing to explore the possibility of a mayoral run
Peluso and Barberio both have registered as candidates for the Republican mayoral nomination with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
Democrat Thomas Fulco also has registered with the commission as a mayoral candidate, but has not made a public announcement of his candidacy.
Council seats for Peluso and Council President Louis Valori also are up this election year. Valori, former Councilman Vincent Ferrara and longtime planning board member Kaushik "Casey" Parikh have all filed registrations as Republican council candidates for the two nominations available in the June primary. Former Councilman Brian Stanton, who chose not to run for re-election in 2015, said he intends to run and will file his registration on March 1.
"A mayor's job is to look past party politics and to govern in the best interests of everyone," Soriano said. "It's not about red and blue donkeys and elephants, it's about the people. That's the kind of mayor I want to be."
He accused the current administration of producing a budget "packed with waste stemming from a pay-to-play culture that permeates Parsippany's government."
As an example, he cited the township paying an outside contractor $17,000 a year to maintain the municipal website.
"This was an unfair process, a closed process, where there was no sunshine on this at all to see how this bid was given out," Soriano said. "Now $17,000, some people say that's not a lot of money. That is just a fraction of what I'm going to be talking about. Basically, I'm going to demand a dollar's worth of value for every dollar of tax money."
Staff Writer William Westhoven: 973-917-9242; wwesthoven@GannettNJ.com.