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RED BANK DEMS: ‘COULDA LOST BUT DIDN’T’

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Red Bank Democrats appear to have held their 4-2 council majority with narrow wins Tuesday by Council President Sharon Lee, who bagged a second term, and Zoning Board member Kathleen Horgan.

But Democratic newcomer Ed Zipprich apparently didn’t have enough juice to nudge Grace Cangemi from the seat she’s held as an appointee since March. Uncertified figures have Cangemi beating Zipprich by 59 votes for the right to finish out the term begun by Kaye Ernst, who resigned and moved out of state in January.

The closeness of the race was reminiscent of last year’s finale for mayor and council, in which Cangemi was bested by Mike DuPont by absentee ballots. A recurrence of that seemed unlikely this morning.

“Last year, it swung by 20 votes,” Cangemi said as she awaited the arrival of Jennifer Beck, upset winner in the 12th district Senate race, at the Dublin House early today. “I can’t imagine it swinging by 60 votes this time. We just don’t cast that many absentee votes in Red Bank.”

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Only 109 votes separated the top and bottom vote-getters, out of 4,491 ballots cast for the two three-year terms. Highest was Lee, with 1,169; lowest was Republican Jim Coolahan, with 1,060. In between were Horgan (1,164) and John Tyler (1,097).

For the unexpired term, though, only 2,295 votes were cast. The latest results posted online by Monmouth County showed Cangemi with 1,174 and Zipprich with 1,115.

In an interview outside Democratic headquarters — the longtime location of Surray Luggage, which recently moved across Broad Street — Horgan said her first electoral victory was “bittersweet” because of Zipprich’s defeat. “He really was the force behind us,” she said.

For the Democrats, the wins were purely defensive. Addressing about 100 supporters, former Mayor Ed McKenna called this an “off-off” election year, with no presidential or gubernatorial races to rally partisans, thus leaving incumbents more exposed than usual.

In addition, he said, the borough “had a reval” forced upon it by the state, causing hardship for many property owners and additional backlash against the majority.

But “we held our own. We were supposed to be beaten,” said McKenna, who still heads the local Democratic party and is clearly relishing the prospect of the 2008 races.

“And guess who’s coming up next year? [Republican Councilman John] Curley and Cangemi,” he shouted to the crowd. “We’re going to take those two bums out and have complete control of the council.”

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