It’s on.

With five weeks to go until election day, the race for mayor and two council seats in Red Bank is fully underway, with campaign literature filling mailboxes and the candidates stumping door-to-door. Can the dinner-interruptus phone calls be far behind?

On Saturday, redbankgreen found Republican Councilman and mayoral hopeful John Curley and his running mates—Grace Cangemi and David Pallister—pounding the pavement on the lower East Side near Pinckney Road.

Council President Pasquale Menna, who’s running for mayor, and his Democratic crew—Councilman Arthur Murphy III and council contender Michael DuPont—were out knocking on doors Sunday on the lower West Side.

Voters looking for a head-to-head comparison of the candidates might want to mark the date of Wednesday, Oct. 11 on their calendars.

That night, starting at 7p, the Westside Community Group will hold its 10th annual Candidates Night in the community room of River Street Commons (the former school building at the corner of River Street and Shrewsbury Avenue, now used for senior housing.)

If the event is anything like last year’s, it should be quite a show. And if you add the Southies to the mix, with their ire over soaring taxes, and the Westies, burned up over declining quality-of-life issues, and it’s a must-see.

The event is not a debate, exactly, but one could break out. Instead, it’s structured as a “meet the candidates” forum. Residents will be able to question the candidates on any topic they wish.

Here’s what Larry Higgs of the Asbury Park Press reported on Oct. 15, 2005 following last year’s event:

At times, the Wednesday night forum resembled more of a World Wrestling Federation tag team match between Democrats Louis J. DiMento and Dr. Guy T. Maratta and Republicans Kaye Ernst and incumbent John P. Curley.

In the almost two-hour debate, Goldsmith had to settle a dispute between Mayor Edward McKenna and a business owner about whether the businessman was entitled to ask a question, and referee verbal sparring between Curley and Maratta about who voted to approve more projects, Curley on the borough Board of Adjustment or Maratta on the borough Planning Board.

McKenna’s name wasn’t on the ballot last year. But we hear he prowled the back of the room, pulling for his guys, who lost the race to Curley and now-Councilwoman Ernst.

McKenna isn’t running this year, either, choosing instead to end his 16-year run as mayor. But it will be interesting to see if the bad blood between Curley, a former Democrat, and McKenna, his former political sponsor, will infect this race.

Curley and McKenna have been going at it hammer-and-tong at council sessions lately, particularly over whether Curley deserves most or all of the blame for a pending tax increase.

Though we haven’t witnessed any warfare between Curley and Menna, the council president is very much a McKenna partisan. Moreover, Menna slatemate DuPont is a partner in McKenna’s law firm.

An electoral loss by Menna or Murphy would mean they get bounced from the council, as their terms end Dec. 31 of this year. If Curley loses his mayoral bid, he retains his council seat, with a term that expires at the end of 2008.

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