West Milford GOP replaces town council candidate

Castronova withdrew from race amid controversy

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  • Andie Pegel

  • Steven Castronova


The West Milford Regular Republican Municipal County Committee selected Andie Pegel to join Tricia Gerst as the 2017 GOP candidates for township council, after Steven Castronova withdrew his candidacy earlier this month.

Pegel was selected by a unanimous vote of the committee at its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 29 and will be running alongside Tricia Gerst, who won the 2017 Republican primary election in June.

“I am humbled by the support of the county committee and excited for the opportunity to represent the Republican Party on the ballot this November,” Pegel said in a press release announcing her candidacy.

Castronova, was one of two committee-backed council candidates who won in June’s Republican primary. He withdrew from the township council race earlier this month amid controversy after police charged him with an alleged hit-and-run offense at a restaurant and bar parking lot in June, his second run-in with police this year.

Earlier in March, both Castronova and his brother Richard Castronova were charged with allegedly allowing non-employees to stay at the Valley View Pub, a bar the brothers own, after legal hours of sale, a violation of a town ordinance.

According to Matthew Conlon, chairman of the West Milford Regular Republican Municipal County Committee, local county committee members are tasked with filling vacancies in the case of municipal primary winners. Any replacement on the ballot has to be done 55 days before the election, Conlon said, which is Sept. 12, so a special committee meeting was held to determine Castronova’s replacement.

“I have been in consultation with the clerk’s office, as well as numerous attorneys just to ensure that everything was done by the book, since this is not something that I would imagine happens all that frequently, but it does happen,” Conlon said.

The new candidate, Pegel, is a 22-year West Milford resident who currently serves as the GOP representative from District 2. She is also the current Republican Club vice president, and serves as a volunteer member of the Economic Development Commission, Insurance Advisory Committee, and Community Against Substance Abuse Committee.

A mother of three, Pegel owns a small insurance business in Passaic County with her husband.

“I am dedicating my time on the campaign trail to hearing the concerns of my friends and neighbors in West Milford,” Pegel said. “From our young families to senior citizens and everyone in between, each constituent brings insight into challenges our town faces. I am ready to actively work to find solutions to benefit all West Milford residents.”

More controversyMichele Dale, vice chair of the Republican committee and former township council member, was the third highest vote getter in the primary election in June, losing by 45 votes. Michele Dale received 771 votes, while Steven Castronova received 874, Tricia Gerst received 816 and Vivienne Erk received 762.

Dale claims that despite being vice chair and a candidate in the primary, she was never notified that Castronova withdrew his candidacy, and that everyone in the committee found out when the agenda was sent out to committee members three hours prior to the special meeting. She also says that there was barely a quorum of the committee present, likely due to the fact that an agenda wasn’t released until that day and the meeting was the week before Labor Day weekend.

Pegel did not run in the primary. Dale said that her selection is an example of Conlon’s cronyism.

“The Republican voters were virtually split in selecting their candidate during the primary election,” Dale said. “By ignoring the wishes of the voters and electing his own candidate, the chairman is not only being disrespectful to those voters, but also not being a true and honest representative of his party.”

According to Dale, she has expressed these concerns with Conlon but plans to continue as vice chair.

Other candidatesIncluding Pegel and Gerst, eight candidates are now currently running for two, three-year seats on the township council, along with Libertarians Michael Chazukow and Jonathan Salzman, current Republican councilwomen Ada Erik and Marilyn Lichtenberg, and Democrats Robert Nolan and Christopher Garcia.

The general election will be held on November 7.

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West Milford, NJ