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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.

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