Election 2011: Looking At The Local Races In Middlesex County

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MIDDLESEX COUNTY – While the state legislative races at the top of the ballot are getting most of the attention that is being devoted to this year’s election contests, a number of local offices are also on the ballot. Voters in ten communities, including Woodbridge, have contested mayoral races, while most communities will elect one or more members to their municipal council or township committee.

Republican Christopher F. Struben hopes to win the mayor’s office from its current holder, Democrat John E. McCormac.

Struben, who was endorsed by the Tea Party of Middlesex County in August, defeated longtime Fifth Ward Councilman Bob Luban in the Republican primary. However, one of the members of Luban’s slate of council candidates, Susan Boros, beat out one of Struben’s candidates – Aaron Strange – leading to a fractured Republican ticket.

An attorney and former Woodbridge municipal prosecutor, Struben pledges to maintain the lowest possible tax rate and says that he won’t take medical benefits or seek to enroll in the state pension plan if elected.

McCormac was elected as Woodbridge’s mayor in 2006. He’s previously served as the township’s chief financial officer and business administrator and was state treasurer under Gov. Jim McGreevey and Acting Gov. Richard Codey. He’s focused on quality of life issues, such as improving parks and adding open space, and improving popular senior citizen programs like “Tommy Tool Box.” McCormac also touts shared services arrangements achieved during his administration to help save taxpayer dollars.

Joining Boros on the Republican Township Council slate are Eduardo Ascolese, Walter Kaczmarek Jr. and Debra Reinhart. They will challenge Democratic council members Kyle Anderson, James V. Carroll, Gregg M. Ficarra and Brenda Yori Velasco. In addition to the four at-large council positions, Third Ward residents will choose between Democratic Councilwoman Michele Charmelo and Republican challenger Peter “Pradip” Kothari to serve the final two years of former Councilman Greg Bedard’s term.

Republican Darren Larsen and Democrat Marlene Lowande are vying to become Jamesburg’s next mayor. Larsen, a 15-year borough resident, is the President of Jamesburg’s Board of Education. He also was a member of the Chamber of Commerce’s executive committee. He wants to make Jamesburg more business-friendly and to address taxes, which he says are too high.

Lowande is a 25-year resident of Jamesburg and has spent seven years on the Borough Council. She was a founding member of the Chamber of Commerce and works for Bluestreak Uniforms. She said she would like to keep taxes flat and the borough debt fee, as it has been since 2009.

Two Borough Council positions are also on the ballot. Republicans Tom Meehan and Samuel Lawrence III are competing against Democrats Daria Ludas and Brian Taylor. Ludas is the only incumbent.

Republican Peter Carpena is challenging Democrat Thomas Vahalla for Metuchen’s mayor’s office. Vahalla was first elected mayor in 2007, after serving on the Borough Council. Among his accomplishments, the mayor counts improved communication with residents through a “reverse 911” system, as well as the internet and social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook. Vahalla noted that many new businesses have come to Metuchen recently and that the borough has been able to avoid mass layoffs of public workers that have been necessary in other communities.

Carpena, a Meutchen resident for 19 years, is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and has worked for Pathmark and sat on the board of Pinnacle Federal Credit Union in Edison. He wants to address the borough’s debt and do more to support the business community.

Three Borough Council seats are at stake. Democrats Peter Cammarano and Jay Muldoon are running for re-election against Republicans Robert D. James and Kieran M. Esposito. Democrat Ronald Grayzel is unopposed in his bid for the final year of an unexpired term.

Middlesex Borough
Residents of Middlesex Borough will choose between three candidates for mayor next week. Republican Robert M. Sherr is seeking re-election, challenged by former Democratic mayor Ronald S. Dobies and Councilwoman Debra De Vuyst, who is running as an independent.

Two Borough Council seats are also on the ballot. Republicans John R. Erickson and John H. Hoffman III are running against Democrats Michele A. Tackach and Patricia Jenkins.

Republican Ronald Dixon and Democrat Eric Steeber are both hoping to become Milltown’s next mayor, replacing Gloria Bradford who chose not to seek re-election. Dixon is a retired law enforcement officer who is finishing his first term on the Borough Council. Steeber is a lifelong Milltown resident who has served on the Borough Council and been a firefighter. He is now a land surveyor.

Republicans Jules Dekovics and Stacey Waters are running against Randy Farkas and Joseph Pietanza for two spots on the Borough Council.

In his bid for a seventh term, Democrat Richard Pucci is being challenged by Republican Carlos Lopez. An Army veteran of the Vietnam War, Lopez is the president of the Monroe Township Republican Club. He works in Hazlet as a broker for Aflac. Pucci works for the Middlesex County Improvement Authority in Cranbury.

Republicans Brian R. Hackett and Phillip R. Kaufman are running against Democrats Stephen Dalina and Councilwoman Leslie Koppe for two Township Council seats.

North Brunswick
Democrat Francis “Mac” Womack is running for his third term as North Brunswick’s mayor against Republican newcomer John Zier. Womack is an attorney and advisory board member for the Salvation Army. Zier is a Marine Corps veteran and a former member of the North Brunswick First Aid & Rescue Squad. Womack wants to finish overseeing the township’s transit village project, while Zier feels that North Brunswick’s government needs a change.

Democrats Bob Corbin and Bob Davis are seeking re-election to the Township Council. They are opposed by Republicans Audrey Andrews and Carmine V. Genovese.

Old Bridge
Republican Owen Henry and Democrat Patrick Gillespie are running for the mayor’s office. Gillespie was appointed to replace James Phillips, who resigned in April because of health issues. He is the director of regional and state government affairs for CIGNA Health Care. Gillespie says he wants to freeze property taxes, preserve open space and create jobs.

Henry is a lifelong Old Bridge resident and local business owner who’s served on the Planning Board. He says he will make decisions with the taxpayers’ best interest at heart and pledges to leave Old Bridge a better place than he found it.

Three seats on the Township Council are on the ballot. Republicans Brian Cahill, Eleanor “Debbie” Walker and James H. Anderson are running against Democrats Edward Testino, John F. Gillick and Kelly Ellis-Foster. Cahill, Testino and Ellis-Foster are incumbents.

Republican Kennedy O’Brien will try to win his fourth term as Sayreville’s mayor next week, while Democrat Stanley Drwal hopes to oust him. O’Brien has served in office since 2000, while Drwal spend six years on the Borough Council and is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel. The current mayor is running on his record, while Drwal says Sayreville deserves a change and pledges to lower property taxes by increasing the borough’s tax base.

Republicans Paula Siarkiewicz and Kelly Reilly are running against Democrats Mary Novak and Councilwoman Lisa Eicher for two seats on the Borough Council.

South River
Democrat Matt Vaughn and Republican John Krenzel are both hoping to become South River’s next mayor after current Mayor Ray Eppinger, a Republican, decided not to seek a new term. Krenzel is an attorney in Sayreville, while Vaughn has been an administrator for the Middlesex County Board of Elections and an assistant commissioner for the state Department of Labor. Both are members of the Borough Council.

South River is one of the few New Jersey communities that operates its own electric utility, and rates are a key issue of the campaign. Vaughn wants to lower rates by 10 percent, but Krenzel says that there is no money unaccounted for in the budget to allow the decrease.

Republicans Donna Farren and Michael Trenga and Democrats Thomas Roselli and Councilman Peter Guindi are seeking two seats on the borough council.

Two Borough Council positions are on the ballot in Carteret. Republicans Steven Pinchak and Kevin Urban are hoping to unseat Democratic council members Susan Naples and Randy Krum.

Republican Karen Callahan and Democrat Susan Goetz are trying to win a seat on the Township Committee.

Republican Mayor Robert J. Seader, and Borough Council members Kenneth Bayer (a Republican) and Mark Bieniek (a Democrat) are unopposed in their re-election bids.

Five seats on the Township Council are at stake. Republicans Mary Lou Resner, Lisa Goldhamer, Abrar “Sam” Khan and Zhiyu “Jimmy” Hu are trying to defeat Democrats Robert J. Karabinchak, Michael R. Lombardi, Sudhanshu Prasad and Wayne J. Mascola. In addition Republican Thomas J. Hughes and Democrat Alvaro Gomez are competing for the final two years of an unexpired term. Except for Lombardi, all of the Democrats are currently members of the council.

Mayor Nancy A. Martin and Borough Council members Sewell H.F. Peckham and Patrick J. Smith are running for re-election on “The People’s Voice” slogan. No Republicans or Democrats appear on the ballot.

Highland Park
Democrat Gary Minkoff, a current councilman, is unopposed in his bid to become Highland Park’s next mayor. Borough Council members Elsie Foster-Dublin and Padraic Millet are unchallenged in their re-election bids.

Township Committee member Peter A. Cantu, a Democrat who’s serving as Plainsboro’s mayor this year, is running for re-election to the committee against Republican Krishna Jagannathan.

South Plainfield
Three Borough Council seats are at stake on Tuesday. Republicans Alex Barletta and Derryck White are running against Democrats Christine Buteas and John Sorrentino. In addition, Republican Richard Frank and Democrat Paul McCullen are seeking the final year of an unexpired term. Barletta and Buteas are incumbents.

East Brunswick, New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Piscatway, South Amboy, South Brunswick and Spotswood have no local elections.

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