Kaye Ernst wants Grace Cangemi to succeed her on the Borough Council.

But will Mayor Pasquale Menna and his Democratic majority risk giving the tailwind of incumbency to a Republican who came within a couple of dozen votes of winning the seat now occupied by Councilman Michael DuPont?

In filling the vacancy, the council gets to choose from three nomimees to be submitted by the local GOP leadership. Like Ernst, Councilman John Curley, the other Republican on the six-member body, has endorsed Cangemi.

Menna, though, is keeping his counsel about the presumed frontrunner for the spot.

“I don’t have a feeling for it,” Menna said Tuesday, when asked for his first-blush reaction to Ernst’s recommendation. “What Kaye Ernst expressed is a personal feeling. We can’t even consider until we get three names from the Republican Committee, and I have no idea whose names they’re going to be submitting.

“This is not a monarchy, and Grace is not the crown princess to the abdicated queen,” Menna said.

As to his personal feelings about Cangemi, Menna said, “I think she’s a very nice person, and certainly energetic. But again, she’s possibly one of three people, and I don’t know who the other two may be.”

Cangemi said she’s up for the job if it’s offered.

“I’m willing to go for it,” she told redbankgreen. “To have this dropped on me in this way was startling, but I feel I owe it to the people who voted for me.”

A 40-year-old mortgage broker who lives on Rector Place, Cangemi was present Monday when Ernst dropped her bombshell during a sparsely attended council session. Cangemi said she’d been tipped off Sunday night by Ernst, who wanted to know if Cangemi would be open to the nomination.

Echoing sentiments expressed by Ernst and Curley, Cangemi said that since Menna became mayor on Jan. 1, “the council chamber is a much more pleasant place to be.” Though disagreements among elected officials are to be expected, she said she “would hope it would not always be along party lines. In a town the size of Red Bank, there’s no room for this party bickering.”

In that spirit, Cangemi said, she’ll accept the council’s decision, whichever way it breaks. And she’ll be able to live with the outcome, she said, because “I’ve already had my ‘Dewey Beats Truman’ moment,” when a newspaper inaccurately reported that she’d outpolled DuPont in November.

“I’ve been on this roller coaster already,” she said.

“This isn’t a given. Honestly, it’s a tough choice for the council,” Cangemi said. “This is another one of those things that, if it runs along party lines, I’m sure I won’t be the person they choose, because I did come close” in the election. (DuPont’s margin of victory was 16 votes, according to the Monmouth County Clerk’s website.)

That whole incumbency thing, you see, becomes a factor later this year. Whomever gets the job will only be guaranteed the seat through the end of 2007; the final year of Ernst’s three year term would be up for grabs in November’s election, in which seats held by Democrats RJ Bifani and Sharon Lee will also be open.

Lee has said she’ll run again; we haven’t heard from Bifani on the question.

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