Democratic write-in candidate for council John Pezzino said his goal was to simply have a Democrat on the ballot this November, to show residents in Hopatcong that Republicans are not the only option.
"I wanted to attract people to go on election day and say, 'oh, we finally have a Democrat on the ballot, maybe I'll be a part of the club,'" he said. "And in the future, maybe I'd run ... not that the Republicans are bad, but that at least people in Hopatcong would have a choice."
Pezzino also says that if he had known Mara Modes was going to run alongside him on the Democratic ticket, he would not have done it.
"I put my name on the ballot just to have people know Democrats are alive and well," he said. "Just to have a name instead of no name."
Modes, though, said that she has had limited contact with Pezzino, and that her campaign is run separate from his.
"It's basically two separate Democratic campaigns," she said. "It became apparent very early that we have different political perspectives."
The main difference, Modes said, is that she does not see what Pezzino hopes to change in Hopatcong.
"I don't see where he is looking to change anything," she said. "I'm looking to change the community involvement in government, for it to be more open. I'd love to see meetings televised. ... A lot more community involvement, a lot more getting information out to the public."
Recently, Pezzino has been defending Republican Mayor Sylvia Petillo, who was after allegedly urging voters to vote "yes" on a referendum through a borough-funded mailing last November. Pezzino said that he does not believe this mailing personally benefited Petillo in her campaign for .
"I really believe when there is a hearing she will be exonerated," Pezzino said.
Modes disagrees with Pezzino's assessment.
"As it stands right now, she's in violation," Modes said. "To me, it's they've already made a decision, until some word comes out of the ethics committee."
As Pezzino does more research, he said he finds that he agrees with many of the decisions of the current Republican council members and mayor.
"She's [Petillo] making unpopular choices," he said. "For the betterment of the town. I question that if Mara Modes got into office, would she make these decisions?"
Pezzino also said that he respects his Republican opponents, Richard Bunce and Marie Galate, and that Bunce is a friend of his through their membership in the Knights of Columbus.
"Bunce and Gallante are good people," Pezzino said. "I thought that it would be a friendly kind of campaign just talking about issues and giving people a choice. ... I'll be honest with you; I hope that choice is Republican."
Modes, on the other hand, said that Pezzino is "basically supporting the status quo."
When reached for comment on this article, Petillo declined comment.