By JOHN T. WARD
Here’s a statement Taylor and Whelan sent via text to redbankgreen in response to word that the triCity News was reporting they would not seek re-election:
After serving on Council for three years, it’s become obvious to us that Red Bank is overtaken by partisan gridlock that prevents the town from moving forward.
Sadly, this is something that will not change in our current system.
This is why we’re foregoing re-election and focusing on a resident based effort to convert Red Bank to a non-partisan municipal government.
The party was scheduled to hold its annual nominating convention Thursday for the June primary, but redbankgreen was not immediately able to learn if alternate candidates for council had been named, and who if anyone might be put up to oppose Democratic Mayor Pasquale Menna. Now seeking his fourth four-year term, Menna has run unopposed in his last two races.
GOP Chairman Michael Clancy could not be reached for comment early Friday.
The departures would appear to greatly benefit Democrats Kate Triggiano and Hazim Yassin, both seeking elective office for the first time. But it could also help Sue Viscomi, a former GOP stalwart who earlier this week announced her run for council as an independent.
Both Taylor and Whelan were political newcomers when they won their seats in 2015 — Whelan after a recount that gave him a narrow win over Democrat Mike DuPont. With Republicans Cindy Burnham and Linda Schwabenbauer already on the governing body, their victories gave the GOP a council majority for the first time since 1989, before Whelan was born.
But the edge was short-lived, as Burnham and the other three Republicans frequently clashed, and the party rejected her bid for a re-election endorsement in 2016. Running as an independent, she finished a distant fifth. And last November, Democrats regained control of the agenda with wins by Michael Ballard and incumbent Ed Zipprich.
In this year’s race, Whelan — who ran an unsuccessfully for state Assembly last year — and Taylor were facing the prospect of a strong wave of anti-Trump sentiment in a town where Democrats have the edge among registered voters.
But as recently as Wednesday night, Taylor indicated to redbankgreen that he and Whelan would be seeking the party nominations to run again. He declined to say if the Republicans would put up a mayoral candidate.
Asked if he and Whelan had taken any concrete steps toward their goal of nonpartisan government and elections, he said they hadn’t yet.