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RED BANK: FOREST LAUNCHES MAYORAL BID

ben-forest-022717-500x375-9595865Ben Forest, above, hopes to unseat three-term Mayor Pasquale Menna, below. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

pasquale-menna-010118-220x165-3032478The 2018 race for Red Bank mayor got underway Wednesday with the announcement by West Side activist Ben Forest that he would challenge incumbent Pasquale Menna for the Democratic party’s endorsement.

Forest, a Locust Avenue resident and member of the borough school board since 2005, announced his bid via a video on his personal Facebook page. In an accompanying post, the longtime Democrat said he has been “terribly disappointed” by Menna, particularly in the last four years.

Forest, a 55-year-old computer consultant, said he wouldn’t air a “laundry list” of his issues with Menna, and would detail them in “the appropriate venue” — a meeting of the 18-member local Democratic county committee that is expected to choose its nominees for mayor and council this month.

“We all know sadly, how ugly and toxic politics can become,” Forest wrote in his post. “But I really have had enough.”

 

Menna, 63, who is in the final year of his third four-year term as mayor and previously served 18 years as a council member, told redbankgreen Wednesday that he has “expressed an interest” to the committee of seeking a fifth term. He said Forest informed him of his planned challenge last month.

Forest said Councilman Ed Zipprich, who chairs the local Democratic organization, told him that he has not ruled out a possible run for mayor. Zipprich did not respond to a request for comment.

Another Democrat, former council member Mike DuPont, has previously been reported to be considering a run for mayor. He also could not be reached for comment.

Menna said DuPont visited him recently and told him he is no longer considering a run. “But I don’t know if that’s still the case,” Menna said.

Forest told redbankgreen that challenging an incumbent is a “formidable proposition,” and that if he fail to win the party nod, he won’t mount a primary challenge or run as an independent.

“If I do not get the party nod, I am out” he said. “I am a Democratic, so I will not be running as an independent.”

A regular and vocal presence at local government meetings and civic events, Forest was sharply critical of the Menna-led effort to designate the vacant lot at 55 West Front Street, opposite Riverside Gardens Park, as an area in need of redevelopment after the zoning board shot down a plan for 35? apartments on the site in 2016. The redesignation, which Forest called “an outrage,” cleared the way for the developer to resubmit the proposal to the planning board, which approved it in March, 2017. The project is now under construction.

Zipprich and Councilwoman Kathy Horgan, another Democrat, also opposed the redesignation.

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