Councilmembers Ed Zipprich, center, and Juanita Lewis with former Councilman Ivan Polonsky, right, at Democratic HQ Tuesday night. Linda Schwabenbauer, below. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Linda Schwabenbauer only got into the Red Bank council race in August, and didn’t start campaigning until mid-September.
Though she’s lived in town for 10 years, the Republican also had the handicap of being an unknown political entity.
“I’d never heard of her,” said former mayor and local Democratic party sage Ed McKenna, “and I don’t know anyone who had.”
And yet, even as her opponents – and perhaps some supporters – struggled to pronounce her name, Schwabenbauer came away as the leading vote-getter in Tuesday’s election, edging incumbent Ed Zipprich by nine votes and knocking out incumbent Democrat Juanita Lewis, according to the GOP.
Given her low public profile, Schwabenbauer says the win was not about her.
“I think it speaks more to how the residents of Red Bank really want to see a change in leadership and how the town is run than it does about me,” she told redbankgreen Wednesday morning. “I think there was a real desire, a strong desire, to see some change.”
In the race for two council seats, Schwabenbauer and running mate Sean Di Somma faced Zipprich and Lewis, seeking third three-year terms. As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, McKenna said he had not received updated vote tallies from the Monmouth County Clerk’s office showing absentee and provisional ballots.
But according to Di Somma, who serves as local GOP chairman, the tally from the clerk’s office was:
DI SOMMA: 1,201
That includes absentee ballots, which are not included in the figures shown on the clerk’s website, but not provisionals, Di Somma said.
The wins by Schwabenbauer and Zipprich means the Democrats will hold a 4-2 majority on the council. For five years until the election of Cindy Burnham a year ago, it was 6-0.
Lewis, who failed to show up at a candidate’s night last week, could not be reached for comment on whether she had conceded or would challenge the count.
Di Somma said the overall voter turnout was just 36 percent for the council race; Democrat Mike DuPont had expected it to be in the 40 to 45 percent range.
Mayor Pasquale Menna, a Democrat, was elected to a third four-year term. He was unopposed on the ballot.
McKenna said the absence of an opponent in a mayoral election makes it harder for the incumbents further down the ballot, because supporters become complacent, thinking the race is already won. He said he was speaking from experience.
“You lose 200 or 300 votes right there” if you don’t campaign as though you had a challenger, he said.