By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank Republicans won both open seats to claim their first borough council majority in a a generation Tuesday.
Political newcomers Mark Taylor and Mike Whelan — who wasn’t yet born when his party last controlled the governing body — outpolled three-term incumbent Democrat Mike DuPont and his running mate, Mike Ballard, to give the GOP a 4-2 majority.
Incumbent Democrat Mike DuPont addresses supporters at a vacant Broad Street store as running mate Mike Ballard listens behind him. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
According to the Monmouth County Clerk‘s unofficial tally, Taylor ran away from the pack with 1,029 votes, while Whelan edged DuPont by just four votes, 963 to 959. Ballard was fourth.[UPDATE: County now shows Whelan with 31-vote lead over DuPont.]
Democrats conceded the loss, while also speaking of a possible swing in their favor from provisional ballots and a recount.
Gathered around former Mayor Mike Arnone, who presided over the last Republican majority at its demise in 1989, GOP faithful packed the Chowda House restaurant on Bridge Avenue shortly before the 8 p.m. close of polls.
Taylor, 33, thanked residents for mobilizing around “a message of change.
“We are so proud to bring that message of transparency and accountability back to town — my hometown, by the way,” he said.
“When we started out, we didn’t know much, but we know that we love this town,” 24-year-old Whelan told the crowd. “I’m extremely humbled, and going forward, we hope to make you proud.”
Councilwoman Linda Schwabenbauer, whose 2014 election gave the GOP its second seat on the council, told the gathering that she and fellow Republican Cindy Burnham “need these guys on council, because I think council’s going to be better for having them on it,” she said. “They’re in this for the right reasons.”
GOP Chairman Sean Di Somma, who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2013 and 2014, said Tuesday’s outcome was the culmination of a “three-year process” that began with Burnham’s 2013 victory and was bolstered a year later by Schwabenbauer’s.
Taylor and Whelan, Di Somma said, “pushed a positive message and an agenda of reform.”
Over at a vacant former rug store on Broad Street, a somber mood hung in the air as the Democrats tallied result from the borough’s nine districts, all but one of which — the ninth, on the West Side — appeared go Republican.
The Democrats’ total showed a five-vote gap between Whelan and DuPont, said former Mayor Ed McKenna.
“We have lost both seats” based on those numbers, McKenna told the crowd, though he said provisionals could reverse DuPont’s five-vote deficit.
“I’m not a sore loser,” Ballard told the crowd, and DuPont, choking back emotion, said he and Ballard could “hold our heads high” for running a clean campaign.
If both wins hold, Taylor and Whelan would begin their three-year terms on January 1.