Seda tops Grisanti to take Jackson seat

Three public questions approved by voters

BY JOYCE BLAY Staff Writer

Staff Writer

Republican newcomer Mark Seda decisively defeated two-term Demo-cratic incumbent Joseph Grisanti in the Nov. 2 election for a three-year seat on the Jackson Township Committee.

Seda received 10,842 votes, while Grisanti received 8,733 votes. Seda won 22 out of 24 voting districts. Seda will be sworn in to office in January when the committee reorganizes for 2005.

Grisanti was elected in 1998 to the committee and was one of the first Democrats to take a seat on the Republican-controlled governing body. By spring 2001, the committee was completely in the control of the Democrats until the election of Republican Josh Reilly to the committee in 2002.

Seda now becomes the second Repub-lican to take a position on the five-member committee. He enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity.

“I was surprised at the numbers that came back so high,” Seda said. “We ran an aggressive campaign, but had the numbers come back different, I still wouldn’t have changed a thing. We looked at the numbers since the election, and the presidential [vote] did help. We still would have won by 1,000 votes even without the help of the presidential election. Our message was clear and concise and we stuck to the issues, which is the main thing.”

Jackson residents cast 10,444 votes for Republican President George W. Bush in his bid for re-election. His Democratic opponent, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, received 6,962 votes in Jackson.

Seda said that as a committeeman, he would address the issue of pay-for-play. He expressed the hope that the Democratic majority would work with him to achieve what he felt was the mandate of residents for change.

“The people of Jackson voted for me … because they truly believed the issues [on which I ran] were important to [them],” he said. “Hopefully, the Democratic regime will put politics aside to reconnect with voters and keep them involved and engaged.”

Seda said his victory was also due in no small part to increased voter registration, which he estimated to be about 4,000 more than in previous years.

“I think the people were more passionate about their vote on a national level, but on a local level the [issues] are more pertinent,” said Seda. “People [in Jackson] are more independent.”

Grisanti did not return calls for comment, but Democratic Municipal Chairman Richard Borys discussed the campaign. He said a letter sent to residents by the Jackson PBA in the final week of the campaign that discussed issues involving the police department may have played a role in Grisanti’s loss.

He also said it may have simply been a year in which Democrats faced an uphill battle for election to public office due to the fact that so many people came out to vote in the presidential election.

At Monday’s committee meeting, Grisanti echoed his belief in that assessment.

“I’m glad the election is over,” he said. “I was advised it would be a tough year for the Ocean County Democrats. When I saw the Bush signs out, [I knew it was true].”

Grisanti said he was resigned to the election’s results. He added that he was proud to have served on the Planning Board and said he thought his work on the board had made a difference.

“I put people before politics — that was my [campaign] slogan in 1998 and one I’ve [been true to] the past six years,” he said.

He then wished Seda luck on the job.

“They say in politics [that] you’re either a show horse or a work horse,” said Grisanti. “I hope [Seda] is a work horse.”

Seda disagreed with Grisanti’s opinion that he had lost the election due to the strength of voter turnout for the presidential election.

“If you look at other towns where the vote count was higher than any other presidential election, Republicans still lost seats,” he said. “Mr. Grisanti was a two-term incumbent [who] lost a very important election across the board.”

Ballot questions approved

Also on Election Day, Jackson voters approved three questions on the ballot.

• Voters approved a Length of Service Awards Program (LOSAP) for volunteers on the Jackson First Aid Squad. LOSAP provides annual deferred compensation in the amount of $1,150 for squad members who meet a specific list of criteria. LOSAP was approved with 10,632 votes in favor to 5,429 votes opposed. The total cost to taxpayers for the program would come to about $45,000 per year.

• Voters narrowly approved a question asking them to increase the current open space tax from 1.5 cents to 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The nonbinding question passed with 7,989 votes in favor to 7,768 votes opposed.

Mayor Sean Giblin said the committee would introduce an ordinance to double the open space tax as soon as the Nov. 22 meeting. If the increase is adopted by the committee, the owner of a home assessed at $200,000 would pay $60 per year to Jackson’s open space fund instead of the current $30.

“It was a struggle, even when I went to vote, [for me to approve it],” Committeeman Michael Kafton said. “Nobody wants a tax increase, [but] it really ends up being a tax benefit down the road.”

• Voters were almost as divided on the question of forming a charter study commission to examine alternate forms of municipal government. The question passed with 8,298 votes in favor of the charter study commission to 7,402 votes opposed.

All voters were asked to elect five members of the charter study commission, whether they approved the ballot question or not in the event it passed. There were 11 candidates and the five residents elected to the commission are Kafton, 6,891 votes; Leslie L. Savage, 5,561 votes; Timothy T. Dolan, 5,123 votes; Daniel Gross, 4,366 votes; and Sal Duscio, 4,330 votes.

The charter study commission’s first meeting will be on Nov. 16 at 4:30 p.m. in the municipal building. For nine months, members will meet in public and make field trips to examine governmental changes made by neighboring communities. At the end of the nine months, the commission will issue a report which may recommend a change in Jackson’s form of government.

“I’m looking forward to working with my fellow [commission] members and hearing feedback from the public on what they want to see,” Gross said.