The dust from this year's election has settled. Or has it?
Democrat challenger Michele Rosen's bid for longtime Freeholder Joseph Vicari's seat was unsuccessful, but after the results came in Tuesday, she pledged to be back for 2012.
"Next year's campaign starts now," Rosen said at the county Democrats' party at The Tuscan House in Toms River. In 2012, Freeholders John Bartlett's and Gerry Little's respective terms expire.
easily fended off Rosen's challenge by capturing more than 65 percent of the vote, with 67,880 votes to Rosen's 35,961 tallies.
Rosen regularly attended Freeholder and county Board of Health meetings, and during public comment sessions would raise questions on spending and contracts, with officials pointing out the questions came during a campaign season.
Among them: contracts between the county, the , and Specialty Systems of Toms River for computer consulting services. and the county have paid the firm $3 million over the last four years, while the county has its own information technology department at a cost of $3 million, she charged. She took issue with the lack of transparency in the , which lead to a more detailed outline of projects itemized in the board's annual budget.
"I addressed good issues and some voters agree," Rosen said. "I have been stopped around town by people who recgonized me and wanted to wish me well."
Vicari was applauded for handily winning the race at the Republican celebration at the Holiday Inn in Toms River as results came in. He, too, said he'll be around awhile. Vicari won his 11th three-year term as a freeholder Tuesday.
"Our best days are yet to come," Vicari said. "Next year at this time we will be celebrating a new president."
In addition to Rosen regularly raising issues during the freeholder meetings was the regular accusations that she was turning the meetings into a campaign stop. At times, accusations between the two candidates turned personal.
She accused Vicari of character assassination for dredging up an indictment against Rosen for theft by deception that was . also raised questions of Rosen's financial history. Vicari accused Rosen of personal attacks, too, as she brought up his appointment as Berkeley superintendent while serving as freeholder.
Does she have any regrets on how this campaign went? "If I could have done things differently, I would have raised more money," she said. "I oppose pay for play, when a candidate recieve funds and gets returns by way of favors later on."
Neither Rosen or Vicari said they plan to leave the county political stage anytime soon.
"Even though we lost, I am not going away," Rosen said. "I will not stop trying to make Ocean County government better."
Vicari pledged the same from his victory podium.
"I'm going to be here a long time," he said.
Nick Loffredo and Don Bennett contributed to this report.