BRADLEY BEACH — Larry Fox has claimed victory in the borough’s nonpartisan mayoral race, as unofficial election results show that he has an insurmountable lead over Councilman Al Gubitosi, who conceded the race on Tuesday.
Mr. Fox, 66, received 1,115 votes to Mr. Gubitosi’s 996 votes as of Tuesday night. According to the Monmouth County Clerk’s Office, 97 percent of mail-in ballots and 48 percent of ballots cast on ADA machines on Nov. 3 have been counted. The counting of provisional ballots is still pending.
A resident of the borough since 2014, Mr. Fox ran on a platform of keeping the borough affordable for middle-class residents and revitalizing the Main Street business district, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We just really tried to stick with the affordability issue and focused on Main Street, and that just seemed to resonate with people very strongly,” Mr. Fox said. He will be sworn into office during the borough’s reorganization meeting on Jan.1 to a four year term.
Mr. Gubitosi, 63, conceded the race on Tuesday in a phone call to Mr. Fox. He later put out a statement saying that he “wanted to officially congratulate Larry Fox for his victory in our mayoral campaign.”
“Larry and his team ran a strong campaign — and I’m counting on the fact that he will bring that same energy to the management of Bradley Beach. As a member of the council, I look forward to working closely with Larry to help him achieve great success for our borough,” the councilman said.
Some of the most immediate issues, Mr. Fox said, will be making sure that the former ShowRoom Cinema, on Main Street, continues to operate as an entertainment destination; and working with the council to decide the future of the former First United Methodist Church of Bradley Beach, which the borough purchased this year for around $1.4 million to prevent the historic building from being demolished and replaced with houses.
Regarding the former church, which members of the council and Bradley Beach Historical Society would like to see repaired and transformed into a community center, Mr. Fox said he is concerned with the possible “implications on the tax burden.”
“I never said I was closing the door on the discussions around the community center. I think it’s going to be a tough discussion because I am not seeing a way forward,” he said.
Initial results from the county showed that Mr. Fox had a lead of less than 50 votes over his opponent, which increased as counting continued throughout the week.
It was a contentious race. At a debate between both candidates, Mr. Fox had accused supporters of Mr. Gubitosi of spreading “misinformation” that the now mayor-elect aimed to use the position as a political stepping stone. In that same debate Mr. Gubitosi denied the accusation, and accused Mr. Fox of “lying.”
The election also shined a light on the rift in the borough’s governing body, as Mayor Gary Engelstad, who opted not to run for a third term this year, backed Mr. Fox, while members of the borough council, Council President John Weber, Randy Bonnell and Tim Sexsmith, backed Mr. Gubitosi.
Both campaigns issued a joint statement in an effort to heal the division. The statement, which was sent to The Coast Star, said that both candidates want to thank their “teams, volunteers, wives, families and most of all: the residents of Bradley Beach.
“You listened, questioned, and evaluated us in a way that only people who truly love our town could. We’re honored by the trust you’ve put in us and look forward to the privilege of serving the ‘Jewel of the Jersey Shore.’”
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