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Meet the 93-Year-Old World War II Veteran Who Won Upset in New Jersey Mayoral Race

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Vito Perillo is a 93-year-old World War II veteran, who has stunned the world by ousting the incumbent mayor of a town on the Jersey Shore.

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Perillo served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific, and  was inspired to run because of Tinton Falls’ high property taxes — an issue vexing just about every property owner in New Jersey.

So Perillo tells PEOPLE he wore out 1 ½ pairs of shoes walking to every home in the borough as he campaigned on promises of transparency and lower municipal taxes.

A first-time campaigner who never ran for any office before, Perillo knew he was a longshot against Mayor Gerald Turning, 63, Tinton Falls’ former police chief and borough administrator. But no matter.

“If anyone’s 93-year-old grandfather came to them and said, ‘I want to run for mayor,’ they would think he was a bit crazy,” says Perillo’s grandson, Michael Perillo-Gentile, 28. “But they don’t know my grandfather.”

When the results came in Tuesday night that Perillo had defeated Turning, “I was elated, I felt good,” Perillo tells PEOPLE.

“More importantly I was happy for my family, I could see the smiles on their faces,” he continues. “The fact that I worked so hard made it that much nicer.”

He heard just one disparaging comment about his age.

“From the present mayor,” Perillo says, “who said at 93 it was kinda late to get into politics or something to that effect, that I wasn’t up to doing the job — but I knew better. I say nonsense.”

 

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