By JOHN T. WARD
After just 14 months on the Red Bank borough council, Mike Whelan is taking aim at Trenton.
The 25-year-old Republican plans to mount a bid to recapture an 11th-District Assembly seat for his party from first-term incumbents Joann Downey and Eric Houghtaling, he told attendees at the GOP’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner in Freehold Friday.
Incumbent Democrats Joann Downey and Eric Houghtaling in Red Bank on January 1. Below, Whelan with Mayor Pasquale Menna at Riverview Medical Center last November. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
Whelan and Ocean Township Deputy Mayor Rob Accera Sr. will fill out a ticket topped by incumbent state Senator and former Red Bank Councilwoman Jen Beck, who’s expected to face off against former Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal in her bid for re-election.
“Serving as Red Bank Councilman has been one of the greatest honors of my life and I look forward to serving Red Bank and the 17 other municipalities from Trenton,” Whelan posted on his Facebook page Saturday.
Whelan, an insurance agent in Metuchen, defeated incumbent Democrat Mike DuPont in an election squeaker that came down to a recount in November, 2015.
He serves as police and fire commissioner as council liaison to the respective departments. As liaison to downtown promotion agency Red Bank RiverCenter, he’s been at the forefront of an effort to get a parking garage built on the municipal parking lot on White Street.
Whelan has forged a close alliance with Democratic Mayor Pasquale Menna, who has supported a number of Whelan initiatives and sided with the GOP, and against his fellow Democrats, on a number of parking and redevelopment issues last year.
In a shocker, Downey and Houghtaling knocked off Beck running mates Caroline Casagrande and Mary Pat Angelini in 2015 after state Democrats poured money into the race.
The district includes Red Bank, Shrewsbury, Allenhurst, Asbury Park, Colts Neck, Deal, Eatontown, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Interlaken, Loch Arbour, Long Branch, Neptune, Neptune Township, Ocean Township, Shrewsbury Township, Tinton Falls and West Long Branch.