By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
The last time redbankgreen talked to Joe Mizzi, on election night last November, he’d just acknowledged his loss in the race for a seat on the Red Bank borough council and said he was going to begin work on his next campaign.
“My last quote was, ‘I’m not going anywhere,'” said Mizzi, a 35-year-old financial analyst and adjunct professor of economics at Brookdale Community College. “And I meant it.”
On Friday, Mizzi, a Republican, announced he’s making a second run to break the Democratic lock on all six council seats, and this time he’s enlisted a familiar name to run with him: former Councilwoman Grace Cangemi.
The GOP battery, running on a platform of bringing more transparency and fiscal responsibility to the governing body, will vie for the expiring seats of Juanita Lewis and Ed Zipprich who drubbed Cangemi and running mate John Tyler in 2008.
Optimism is high that the two can elbow their way onto the dais and bring the governing back to a two-party system, Mizzi said. Cangemi, who was the last Republican to serve on the council, in a 21-month term, said that’s what Red Bank deserves.
At her last meeting as a councilwoman in 2008, Cangemi criticized the council for “behind the curtain decision-making” and keeping her out of the loop because of her party affiliation.
“There was precious little transparency,” she said, “and there’s less transparency now. We have a problem with the one-party system on the council now.”
Indeed, Mizzi sees a problem with one-party rule in the borough, saying the council has lacked proper economic responsibility and it needs to add his and Cangemi’s mix of opinions and conservative principals to get on track.
He pointed to the borough’s debt, rising taxes and an exodus of small businesses as the top issues in town. Although he acknowledged a wave of new businesses moving in, he said it came at the cost of losing longtime merchants.
“I don’t see any net improvement in the quality of life and the fiscal soundness of the borough,” he said. “In fact, nothing has changed in that respect.”
In teaming with Cangemi, with her political experience and name recognition, plus a solid entry into borough politics in November when he fell short by about 165 votes our of about 2,800, Mizzi sees his chances of winning much higher this year.
He and Cangemi both agree they make perhaps the strongest GOP team in recent years to challenge Red Bank’s Democrats. The decision to run together, he said, was made over coffee a couple weeks ago.
“It was just a mutual feeling, for lack of a better word, that we would make a great ticket,” he said. “There really wasn’t much discussion.”
The campaign will begin in earnest, Mizzi said. The earlier people know the two are running this year, the better, he said.
“We’re going to be very organized this year,” he said. “We’re essentially running a top-notch, organized campaign and we’re in the midst of very intense discussions.”
Cangemi says she expects “a very issues-oriented race. All four of running have a great deal of respect for one another, so there shouldn’t be any name-calling.”
Cangemi, a mortgage industry worker who last year was named to the state Council on the Arts, said she lost her re-election bid in 2008 mainly because of the presidential race and Barack Obama’s sweeping popularity. This go-round, she feels that issues will alone tell the tale of who’s making the trip to borough hall.
“This will be very much issue-related,” she said. “I look forward to talking about issues and I don’t think the national tide is going to have as much an impact. A lot of the business owners and residents know that the two-party system is the best way to go in Red Bank.”