Cappelli, Cream win in Camden County In an extremely high turnout, they swept aside the GOP challengers, continuing the Democrats' control of the Board of Freeholders. Democrats triumph in Camden County

Posted: November 05, 2008

Buoyed by incumbency in an increasingly Democratic county, two Camden County freeholders easily fended off challenges yesterday from Republicans.

The victory by Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr., a Collingswood lawyer, and Freeholder Riletta L. Cream, a retired educator from Winslow, means Democrats will continue to occupy all seven seats on the board, as they have since the early 1990s.

"I think the residents of Camden County recognize that the Board of Freeholders have made a special effort to reduce spending . . . while providing outstanding services," said Cappelli, 46, who hopes to remain director of the board next year.

The number of votes cast was up countywide, with the Camden City clerk estimating that turnout was three to four times higher than in previous elections.

Republican Mary I. Cortes, 53, a volunteer teacher and eminent-domain foe from Camden, was making her fourth bid for freeholder.

Cortes had hoped voters would look beyond party, and if elected she promised to make county finances more transparent.

Her running mate, Alice J. Wood, 60, of Cherry Hill, told voters that it was time for Cream, who is 81, to retire. Wood said her experience running a Lawnside group home for the elderly, Fischer House, helped her understand senior citizens and she questioned Cream's fitness for office.

Cream wished her opponents well last night and invited them to run again. She said her supporters at campaign headquarters might quibble with the idea that she was too old, because "they saw me dancing on the stage with the best of them."

Although she was happy with her win, Cream said she was more thrilled with Barack Obama's presidential victory.

"To think that I was on a ticket with my name at the bottom and his at the top. At my age, I never thought that would occur," said Cream, who is black.

"For me, that's the elation," she said.

Cream said there were more black people at party headquarters last night than she had seen before. Obama's campaign "has really energized people," she said.

The question for Camden County Democrats is how to capitalize on that enthusiastic and growing base. Democrats now outnumber Republicans 3-1 in the county.

"It's something we've been talking about for the last couple of weeks," Cappelli said. "We want to keep them energized and part of the governmental process and political process."

On the municipal level, Democrats made gains in contested races countywide, picking up seats on the borough councils in Laurel Springs, where Michael Cannon defeated Councilman Richard McCunney, and Merchantville, where 28-year-old Ted Brennan defeated Councilwoman Patricia Fields, according to unofficial results.

Democrats fended off GOP challenges in Lawnside and Winslow, as well as in Pennsauken, where Mayor Jack Killion and Committeeman Bill Orth cruised to reelection. In Voorhees, Mayor Michael Mignogna and Committee Harry Platt, both Democrats, kept their seats.

And in Waterford, Democratic newcomers Pamela Finnerty and Ralph Condo defeated Republicans William Richardson, an incumbent, and Gary Smith.

Two Berlin Borough Republicans, Nick Maccaroni and Scott Scelso, defended their seats. And Republicans Kathy Lange and Daniel Haggerty picked up open seats in Haddon Heights.

Camden County towns also put questions out to voters. Berlin Borough and Stratford approved money to be set aside to protect open space.

Haddonfield voters overwhelmingly chose to have the construction of a library put to a future vote.

And in Waterford, voters rejected a proposal to have their library join the county system.

Contact staff writer Matt Katz at 856-779-3919 or mkatz@phillynews.com.

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