By JOHN T. WARD
After a quarter-century in the minority, will Red Bank Republicans be able to harness their momentum of the last two elections to take control of the borough government?
Getting an early jump on this year’s race for two council seats, the local GOP trotted out some big local names for a kickoff event Wednesday night.
And they held it out on Monmouth Street, just feet away from both borough hall and new parking kiosks they believe symbolize the “arrogance” of Democrats, who now hold a 4-2 majority on the council as well as the mayoralty.
The kiosks, bought before an authorization vote to expand the paid parking zone and installed over the vehement objections of business owners, “exemplify the arrogance of the Murphy-DuPont era,” said GOP chairman Sean Di Somma, referring to incumbent Democrats Art Murphy and Mike DuPont, whose three-year seats are open in November.
State Senator Jen Beck – herself a former Red Bank council member – Assemblywomen Caroline Casagrande and Mary Pat Anglini touted first-time candidates Mark Taylor and Mike Whelan as two “regular” Red Bankers who simply want to be a voice for their neighbors.
“The residents of Red Bank are most concerned about their ability to stay here,” said Beck. “It’s a great town. But it’s an expensive place to stay in terms of taxes and our water fees.”
Also present were the the council’s only two Republicans, Cindy Burnham, who broke the Democrats’ four-year lock on the council two years ago, and Linda Schwabenbauer, who came out of nowhere to win a seat after little more than two months of campaigning last November.
Taylor, a 32-year-old attorney and Wallace Street resident, called the decision-making process on the kiosks “backwards and irresponsible.”
Taylor said he wants “to represent people who don’t want to be killed by property taxes and inflated water rates.” He said he would push for more transparency, including live-streaming of council meetings, and advocate for the privatization of trash pickups and a possible privatization of the borough-owned water utility.
“We’re just two hardworking young guys who want to do the best for this town,” said Whelan, a 24-year-old insurance salesman who lives on Maple Avenue with his mother.
Di Somma, who himself failed in two runs for council before becoming local GOP head, teed up Murphy in particular for what he said was a conflict of interest. A building contractor, Murphy is “a documented subcontractor for New Jersey American Water,” which supplies the town’s water six months of the year.
“He makes money, and then he votes on ordinances that benefit that company, and then claims publicly, not privately but publicly,” that he doesn’t have a conflict of interest, Di Somma said.
Murphy has said there is no conflict in his vote on the meters for the borough-owned utility and that he does not do work for New Jersey American in Red Bank.