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Posts Tagged ‘Neptune Township politics’

By Charles Layton

In the election (remember the election?) Neptune Township remained a secure Democratic island within the Republican stronghold of Monmouth County. And Ocean Grove played a part in that.

So we thought we’d look at how Grovers voted on November 6, and make some comments about it.

Ocean Grove has been voting for Democrats for so long now that it really does seem like a permanent thing. Grovers went for Gore over Bush in 2000, for Kerry over Bush in 2004, for Obama over McCain in 2008 and this year for Obama over Romney.

In the local race for two seats on the Township Committee, a majority of Grovers also preferred the incumbent Democrats, Michael Brantley and Mary Beth Jahn, over their Republican challengers, Donald Beekman and Kevin Sheehan. However, those local Republicans did better with Grovers than Romney did.

Here is how Ocean Grove voted for President:

Romney – 521

Obama – 808

And for Township Committee:

Beekman – 620

Sheehan – 557

Brantley – 629

Jahn – 683

The difference between Republican Beekman and Democrat Brantley was only nine votes in Ocean Grove, whereas the difference between Romney and Obama was 287 votes. I don’t know exactly what to make of that.

Although Grovers voted for Democrats all down the line – for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House and so forth — the party’s margin of victory was, as usual, slimmer in Ocean Grove than in Neptune Township as a whole.

Total Neptune votes for President:

Romney – 3142

Obama – 8488

Total Neptune votes for Township Committee:

Beekman – 3556

Sheehan – 3318

Brantley – 7176

Jahn – 7031

In recent years the Neptune Republican Party has had serious trouble recruiting candidates, and that’s understandable. Who wants to go through all that hassle just to get walloped?

The Democratic majorities in a great many Neptune voting districts are truly stunning. In the Midtown area, with its heavily black population, Obama out-polled Romney by more than eight to one. In one Midtown district Obama pulled in 933 votes to only 14 for Romney. A large part of West Neptune went for Obama by a five-to-one margin. In The Gables neighborhood, Obama won by 666 to 96 and the local Democratic candidates won with comparable numbers.

Shark River Hills is the Township’s only large Republican stronghold. That area went for Romney 1,081 to 864. The Hills gave stronger majorities to local Republicans Beekman and Sheehan.

There was a time when local Republicans did much better both in Neptune as a whole and in Ocean Grove. In 2003, the Republican candidates for Township Committee, Richard Iadanza and Michael Golub, defeated the Democrats, Joseph Krimko and Kevin McMillan, by substantial margins in Neptune as a whole, and by more than two to one in Ocean Grove.

Iadanza was soon caught up in the FBI’s Operation Bid Rig investigation, pleaded guilty to bribe-taking and resigned from office. In 2004, Democrats Randy Bishop and James Manning Jr. easily won election to the Township Committee. In 2005, Mayor Tom Catley put the Republicans back in the win column, defeating Democratic challenger Ava Johnson, but Catley was the last Republican to win a local election in Neptune. Democrats now hold all five seats on the Township Committee and seem likely to keep them for a long time.

Some say that demographic changes had more to do with the Republicans’ decline than did the corruption scandal. They point to the departures of elderly Republicans and to a significant influx of liberal voters.

If the Republicans do continue to wander in the desert, one might expect that the local political struggles won’t be between parties but between factions in the Democratic Party. We got a taste of that last spring, when disaffected Democrats mounted an angry challenge against Mary Beth Jahn in the primary election. After Jahn won the primary, Michael Brantley, who had sided against her, refused to acknowledge her as his running mate on the Democratic ticket. He even threatened, in a vague way, to bring legal action against her.

While Jahn has told people that the rift between her and Brantley is now healed, the fact remains that whenever there is one-party rule that party tends to split into rival camps. It is the nature of the political beast.

One other point Ocean Grovers might ponder is the way our voting numbers have declined in recent years. In 2004, a presidential election year, the total ballots cast in Ocean Grove were 1,774. In the next presidential year, 2008, our total votes fell to 1,607. And this year, only 1,363 votes were cast in the Grove. This probably reflects our decline in year-round population rather than lack of interest.

Nevertheless, as adorable as our little town may be, the fewer votes we cast the less influence we may have in the councils of the mighty. This could be a problem for us.

Note: Vote totals for 2012 were provided by the Township Clerk. Totals from past years are from the website of the Monmouth County Clerk. Anyone wishing to see that data can find it by going here. Once on the site, in the “archives” column on the left choose an election year, click it and you’re on your way.

MUSIC from YouTube:

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By Charles Layton

What if the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association held a candidates forum and the only candidate who showed up was Mary Beth Jahn?

That possibility arose on Thursday after the Neptune Democratic chairman, James Mowczan, tried to avoid having his two endorsed candidates appear on the same Ocean Grove stage with Jahn.

In the June 5 Democratic primary, the three candidates — Jahn, Michael Brantley and Nicholas Williams — will compete for two seats on the Township Committee. In a bitter intraparty squabble, the county party has endorsed Jahn while Mowczan and his Neptune organization back Williams. (Both the county and Neptune branches of the party have endorsed Brantley.)

James Mowczan. Photo by Mary Walton

So now the president of the Home Owners Association is inviting those three candidates to speak at the HOA’s May 26 meeting. Jahn is eager to appear, but Mowczan said on Thursday that he was advising all three candidates not to appear.

The HOA’s president, Denis McCarthy, says the forum will happen in spite of Mowczan’s opposition. “The forum is scheduled, the forum will take place,” McCarthy said. “If one, two or all three of the candidates show up, the forum will take place.”

Jahn told me: “I will be there on the 26th, whether they [Williams and Brantley] show up or not. If I have no one to debate, I can do a Q&A session with residents.” While Jahn has already accepted the HOA’s invitation, Williams and Brantley had not replied as of the end of the day Thursday.

This debate about a debate kicked off on Wednesday afternoon, when McCarthy sent the following email to Mowczan:

Mr. Mowczan,

The HOA will conduct a candidates forum on Saturday, May 26th at 10am in the Community Room in Ocean Grove. We will send out invitations as soon as we obtain contact info, but for now would you please notify the three candidates.

Thanks, Denis

On Thursday, Mowczan sent McCarthy this reply:

On behalf of the Neptune Township Democratic Organization, I would like to thank the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association for offering to host a debate for the three candidates running in the June 5th Democratic Primary Election. However, it is my understanding that the OGHOA is a politically non-partisan organization. Furthermore it is probably a safe assumption that the majority of your membership is either undeclared voters or registered Republicans, both of whom are ineligible to vote for any of the three candidates in the June Primary. For these two reasons, I am advising all three candidates to honor your non-partisan tradition and not to participate in the planned May 26th debate.

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Editor’s note: For background on the primary race, go here and here  and here.

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By Charles Layton

By this coming Monday — if not sooner — the Democratic Party will probably have made up its mind whether to endorse incumbent Mary Beth Jahn or her challenger, Nicholas Williams, for Neptune Township Committee.

Whichever of those two gets the party’s blessing will have a significant advantage in the June 5 primary, which will decide the party’s candidates in the general election next fall.

Two members of the Township Committee are up for re-election this year: Jahn and Dr. Michael Brantley. Normally, the Neptune Township Democratic Party would have backed those two incumbents, but at its March 24 meeting the party’s district leaders chose to replace Jahn with Williams. That action has caused an acrimonious split within the party, with Jahn refusing to step aside and Mayor Randy Bishop supporting her.

The county party and its chairman, Victor Scudiery, get to make the final call, either reinstating Jahn as the party’s choice or following the endorsement of the Neptune party.

But whatever Scudiery decides, the remaining contender, be it Williams or Jahn, can still appear on the primary ballot, but in a far less favorable position.

In an email on Wednesday to some of her supporters, Jahn said, “I will not know until early next week as to whether the Monmouth County Democrats will choose to endorse me or the Neptune Democrats’ choice, but either way, I will be running in both the primary and general elections.”

Jahn also told The Coaster: “I think the public and citizens of Neptune should decide at the polls who they want to represent them rather than it being brokered by a small handful of people at a meeting.”

Williams has not made any public statements about the controversy.

Any candidate who seeks to be on the ballot must submit a petition signed by at least 18 voters who are registered either as Democrats or independents.  Those petitions have already been submitted to the office of Municipal Clerk Richard Cuttrell, and if one were to judge by the petitions alone, Jahn would seem to have an edge. According to Cuttrell, her petition contains 68 valid signatures. Williams and Brantley filed a joint petition with only 23 signatures. However, Scudiery is not obliged to consider the size of the candidates’ petitions in making his choice.

The backing of the party is important because voters in primary elections tend to be party stalwarts, and many vote the straight party “line.” This is a formidable advantage for those who get listed on the line. Also, a candidate not listed on the party’s line doesn’t get party financial help.

Ocean Grove is one of the bases of Jahn’s support. At least half the names on her petition were the names of Ocean Grovers. Her popularity here is due in part to positions she has taken on controversial Ocean Grove issues. For instance, she took a more determined stand than any other Neptune politician against high-density condo development at the North End. She has also been active in efforts to clean up derelict buildings in the Grove.

Scudiery’s decision is expected to be announced on or around next Monday. Whatever he decides, it seems likely that the power struggle within the Neptune party will not soon end. The party’s current municipal chairman, James Mowczan, is said to be on the side of Williams in this dispute, while Mayor Bishop is in Jahn’s camp. Feelings are running very high.

The Republicans, meanwhile, have had a much easier time choosing their candidates. They will be Donald Beekman and Kevin Sheehan.

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For background on the Jahn-Williams controversy, go here.

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65 Abbott. Photo by Charles Layton

1. Neptune Township has issued another stop-work order on the controversial new house at 65 Abbott Avenue. This is the house where the height of the foundation and front porch were found to have substantially exceeded what the Zoning Department and the HPC had authorized. That violation was discovered after the house had already been framed, roofed and sheathed, presenting the builder, Sawbucks Contracting, with a serious dilemma. On March 6 the Township ordered all work stopped. Sawbucks then obtained a permit to lower the house. In the interim, they also received permission to install windows and wrap the house in Tyvek to protect it from the weather. However, according to Township officials, they also proceeded with construction on the second-floor porch. Township Construction Official Bill Doolittle inspected the site this week, discovered that unauthorized work and ordered it halted. For previous articles on this subject, go here and here.

2. Marshall Koplitz remains in default of a Municipal Court consent order to rehab his nuisance property at 23 Seaview Avenue, also known as the Park View Inn. However, the Township is giving him another 30 days to come into compliance. Under the terms of a July 28 court order, Koplitz agreed to a rehab schedule, under which he was supposed to have submitted complete architectural plans by now as well as approvals from the Zoning Department and the HPC. Township Attorney Gene Anthony said this week that Koplitz’ lawyer, Michelle Lebovitz Lamar, had asked for the extra 30 days because the partners in Koplitz’ architectural firm had split up. Anthony said he would give Koplitz the extra time rather than hauling him back into court because he thought Koplitz had “a legitimate excuse.” More to the point, perhaps, he said he thought Municipal Court Judge Robin Wernik would consider it a legitimate excuse. For background on all of this, go here.

3. Since the Mary Beth Jahn/Nick Williams controversy erupted this past week, commenters on this website have been seeking to better understand the arcane world of Neptune party politics. In an effort to help, Blogfinger has obtained the names of the two parties’ district leaders from the Municipal Clerk’s office. All of Neptune is divided into 20 voting districts, three of which are in Ocean Grove, and the party leaders in those three OG districts, according to the Clerk’s office, are:

– District 1: Repubs Matthew and Elizabeth Gannon; Dems Randy Bishop and (vacant)
– District 2: Repubs Ed Wyzykowski and Eileen Kean; Dems Paul Ristow and Carol Bernard
– District 3: Repubs Denis McCarthy and Grace Ann Shotwell; Dems Jeffrey and Caitlin Wood-Yesline

Each of the 20 districts is entitled to have two representatives for each party. However, not all those positions are filled. The Republicans have none at all in some districts, while the Democrats have only one in several districts, including District 1 in Ocean Grove. These vacancies make the system even more exclusive, as does the fact that in many cases the party’s two district leaders are husband and wife.

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