A NEARLY DEBATE-FREE DEBATE

AudienceThe scene at the River Street Commons auditorium last night.

The candidates rarely differed on policy or outlook, and when they did, not by much. The only raised voices were those of audience members calling for the candidates to speak up loudly enough to be heard.

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Last night’s annual Red Bank candidates forum, sponsored for the twelfth year in a row by the West Side Community Group, was a bloodless affair. Looming over it was the question of whether the two council seats on the Nov. 4 ballot, now held by the governing body’s only two Republicans, should stay that way.

LewisDemocrat Juanita Lewis, left, is making her first running for council.

ScenesDemocrat Ed Zipprich, left, and Republican Grace Cangemi, right. Center, a woman who asked the candidates for their views on the need for a community center. (Photos by Jim Willis)

The most striking difference, perhaps, came in response to a question about how the town’s residents might benefit from an all-Democrat council.

Democrat Juanita Lewis, in her first bid for the council, said she and running mate Ed Zipprich were “progressive” Democrats who’d undergone training by a Howard Dean-founded group called Democracy for America, and would seek “creative” solutions to problems.

Zipprich, running for the second time in two years, echoed her reply. “It isn’t about party affiliation. It’s really about doing the right thing for the citizens,” he said.

But incumbent Grace Cangemi said both Mayor Pasquale Menna and Councilwoman Kathleen Horgan are also members of DFA, suggesting there was little daylight between the three politically. “I don’t think it makes you terribly different,” she said.

Later on, she warned against what she sees as the dangers of one party filling all the seats on the governing body and making appointments to the planning, zoning and other boards.

“That is total control, and that is of great concern to me,” she said at the conclusion of the 85-minute forum, held at the River Street Commons senior citizens’ residence. “Keep the watchdogs on the council so that your voices will be heard in borough hall.”

Here’s the full debate moderated by the WSCG’s Amy Goldsmith: Download candidates_night_2008.wav (Hope this works; it’s our first attempt to embed audio in a post.)

The Asbury Park Press also has a report on the event today.

DebateFrom left, resident and business owner Joyce Kalkucki; candidates Tyler, Cangemi, Zipprich and Lewis; John Tyler; and the audience.

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