In Clark, voters reelect incumbents who supported $400k payout to cover up racism scandal

By: - November 9, 2022 7:43 pm

All four Republican council members handily defeated their Democratic opponents in this GOP stronghold. (Photo by New Jersey Monitor)

A recording of Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso making racist comments and a $400,000 payout to cover it up weren’t enough to oust his supporters on the township’s council.

Clark voters reelected four Republicans — Frank Mazzarella, Patrick O’Connor, Steven Hund, and Brian Toal — to new four-year terms Tuesday. They defeated their Democratic opponents by wide margins, vote tabulations show. 

Local Democrats, while conceding they faced an uphill battle in a town that is a GOP stronghold, had hoped the race would be a referendum on the Republican mayor’s scandal, which made national headlines and prompted officials from both sides of the aisle to call for his resignation.

Unofficial election results show:

  • Mazzarella received 973 votes to Dario Valdivia’s 553.
  • O’Connor nabbed 865 votes to Michael Shulman’s 658.
  • Hund got 844 votes to William Grzyb Jr.’s 532.
  • Toal won 1,130 votes to Dave Hessler’s 477.

In the recordings, first reported by NJ Advance Media, Bonaccorso used a common racial epithet and misogynistic language in conversations with a police lieutenant who was secretly recording him.

The four Republican council members, along with three others on the council who were not up for reelection this year, voted in 2020 to approve the $400,000 settlement to the lieutenant to avoid a lawsuit that would have led to the recordings becoming public.

Three of the Democrats who lost Tuesday decided to make council runs after the recordings surfaced in March.

The mayor apologized for his comments in a video that has since been removed from YouTube.

The Union County town is nearly 80% white and less than 2% Black, according to Census data. Bonaccorso cruised to reelection in 2020 when he ran unopposed for his sixth term.

Nancy Sheridan, chair of the Clark Democratic Committee, did not respond to a request for comment.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.