By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank Republicans may not have a mayoral candidate, but they appear to have filled the empty slot on the November ballot for two council seats.
Three months after the shortlived candidacy of Brian Hanlon ended over objections by his employer, political newcomer Linda Schwabenbauer is expected to join local party chair Sean Di Somma in his second consecutive run for council.
Nominally, at least.
Schwabenbauer and Di Somma will face incumbent Democrats Juanita Lewis and Ed Zipprich in the November 4 election. But like Councilwoman Cindy Burnham, who broke the Democrats’ lock on the governing body last November while Di Somma came up short, Schwabenbauer expects to run a campaign independent of Di Somma’s.
“I’m envisioning it as two separate campaigns right now,” Schwabenbauer told redbankgreen.
Di Somma could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Schwabenbauer said her candidacy came about after several years of conversations with Burnham, and now that Burnham is on the governing body, she believes the lone Republican could use some backup.
“She’s the voice that most often is asking the questions I’d like to have answered, and I think she could use some help on the council,” Schwabenbauer said. Burnham’s initiatives may not get proper consideration for lack of a second when she makes a motion, she said.
“I’m not sure how often that happens, but it would be good, if nothing else, to ensure that her thoughts are heard,” she said.
Schwabenbauer, a Leroy Place resident, moved to town in 2005 after years in Boston, where she was a financial statement auditor with PriceWaterhouse Coopers. She’s now chief accountant at borough-based auto insurer Plymouth Rock.
Tops on her list of issues: rising property taxes, and particularly, what she calls the “hidden” tax in bills from the borough water utility, whose surpluses are used to “plug holes” in the general fund, she said.
“A lot of people don’t even know it’s there,” she said, in part because the rate is not disclosed on the bill. “But I know it’s there, because I’ve been watching my bill go up quarter after quarter after quarter, with absolutely no change to my household.”
Her water bill, she said, is up 90 percent in the time she’s lived here, to the point where it’s bigger than those of families of four she knows in Little Silver and Fair Haven.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the water utility should be sold, she said. “It might need to be sold, but right now, we have no transparency,” she said.
Schwabenauer also thinks the town government might do more to help the Lunch Break soup kitchen on Drs. James Parker Boulevard.
“I don’t know that we do a lot, necessarily, as a community to come out support those people who lost their jobs” in the 2008 recession, or are scraping by on low-pay work, she said. “I think we could have a lot more tie-ins with community events to help.”
As for the empty slot at the top of the ballot, Di Somma has previously said the GOP didn’t put up a mayoral candidate because he believes he can work with Mayor Pasquale Menna, and because he believes the real power in town belongs to the council, not the mayor.
Menna is seeking his third four-year term. He served on the borough council from 1989 to 2006.