By Jay Cook |
Opens Opportunity for GOP, Independent Candidates
RED BANK – After shocking Red Bank’s political scene with Election Day upsets in 2015, GOP councilmen Mark Taylor and Michael Whelan made another splash last week with their joint announcement not to seek re–election this year.
That decision from the two Republican councilmen is directly connected to their effort to reform Red Bank’s government into a nonpartisan body.
“When we ran in 2015, we were looking to get a peek behind the curtain,” Whelan said by phone this week. “Over the last two-and-a-half years now, what’s been behind the curtain isn’t pretty, and a lot of it isn’t pretty because of politics.”
Taylor and Whelan were the top two vote-getters in the 2015 election when they upended incumbent Democrat Michael DuPont and his running mate, Michael Ballard, who is now a Red Bank councilman. Taylor accrued the most votes with 1,038 and Whelan’s tally went down to a recount where he edged out DuPont by only three votes – 971 to 968.
Whelan confirmed to The Two River Times they were not running for office after their names were not included on the list of candidates running in the Red Bank Republican Party primary.
In interviews with The Two River Times in January, both GOP elected officials said their goal this year was to make Red Bank a nonpartisan town. Whelan believes politics has stymied the council from working together to solve Red Bank-centric topics, namely the hiring of a borough administrator and downtown development.
“If we can’t just come together to talk about Red Bank issues because we have to draw lines in the sand, well, that’s the reason Red Bank has been the status quo for the last 15 to 20 years,” he said.
With a little more than eight months remaining on their terms, Whelan said he and Taylor will do what they can, although he believes they’re being blocked from any decision making. The Red Bank Borough Council has a 4-2 Democrat majority with a Democrat mayor, Pasquale Menna.
Once their terms end in December, he said residents should prepare for a groundswell of nonpartisan support.
“Instead of having no voice, let’s try to create more voices, let’s get better candidates, let’s re–brand Red Bank,” Whelan said.
With Taylor and Whelan out of the electorate picture, a lane opens up for other Republican candidates to seek office. Red Bank’s GOP chairman, Michael Clancy, and Allison Gregory, will head the Republican ticket later this year.
Clancy is a 35-year-old resident who works in medical device sales for Medtronic and has been the local Republican chairman for nearly two years.
“I’ve wanted to run for a while,” Clancy, 35, said this week, “but since (Taylor and Whelan) decided not to run I felt this was the time for me to step up and do it.”
His running mate, Gregory, 37, is a sales associate at Resources Real Estate in Red Bank.
“She’s been very involved, very helpful, and I thought she’d make an excellent running mate with me,” added Clancy.
Red Bank’s Republicans will also not put up a candidate to run for mayor this year against Menna. If no independent challenger rises over the next few months, Menna will have run unopposed for mayor in three consecutive elections dating back to 2010. Despite having no mayoral candidate, Clancy believes the GOP ticket can have some success in November.
“I think we have a legitimately good shot at keeping the council seats for Republicans,” he added. “I didn’t think using our resources to run three candidates made any sense.”
With that, the ballots are nearly complete. Clancy and Gregory will face off against Hazim Yassim and Kate Triggiano, the two Democratic candidates who announced their run earlier in March.
One wildcard remains, though – independent candidate Suzanne Viscomi, a 41-year-old resident and member of the Red Bank Borough Board of Education.
Viscomi’s first attempt to run for borough council came in 2012 when she ran unsuccessfully as the lone Republican candidate against two incumbents, falling short by over 700 votes. For the past few years since then, she’s been a consistent presence at Red Bank Borough Council meetings, recording the bi-weekly transgressions and posting to her Facebook page, “RB SPECTATOR.” Viscomi, the chief financial officer for National Parts Supply, announced her election bid through a news release earlier this week.
Through that work, along with two borough appointments to tout earlier this year, Viscose believes she has the balance Red Bank needs.
“Sitting in the seats over the last couple of years, especially in the last three, the partisanship has been ridiculous,” she said. “The Democrats have a strong machine.”
Viscomi noted her appointments to the borough library board and animal wellness committee shows she can balance out the politics to help Red Bank thrive.
“Being able to work with both groups, respect both groups and bring the best from both groups is something I can bring to the table that others can’t,” she said.
This article was first published in the Apr. 5-12, 2018 print edition of the Two River Times.
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