By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
Lawrence Township voters elected three school board members, as well as a U.S. Senator and a replacement for retiring U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12th Congressional District), two Mercer County Freeholders and the Mercer County sheriff Tuesday.
Lawrence voters also agreed with voters statewide to approve two state Constitution questions — one that changes the bail system for persons accused of crimes, and a second one that creates a source of funding for open space preservation.
But Lawrence voters rejected a countywide question that asked whether they would approve of a 5-cent fee on each plastic shopping bag at grocery, drug and convenience stores. The question was non-binding, which meant it would not be made law.
It was described by Mercer County officials as a means to find out whether there would be support for it.
In the Lawrence Township Board of Education contest, voters returned incumbent school board member Dana Drake to the board for her first, full three-year term. She was appointed last year to fill out an unexpired term. She was the top vote-getter, receiving 3,060 votes.
Ms. Drake said she was pleased to have been re-elected to the school board.
"We have a busy year ahead as we work with administrators, staff and parents to develop a strategic plan for the special education program and work to restore trust," she said.
"As we wrap up the last year of the school district’s five-year strategic plan, we will begin the process of developing the next five-year plan. I look forward to playing an active role in the strategic planning process," Ms. Drake said.
Voters also chose Glenn Collins and Max Ramos to fill the other two seats on the school board. Mr. Collins received 2,733 votes and Mr. Ramos got 2,731 votes. The fourth candidate, Harriet W. Johnson, got 2,430 votes. The term is for three years.
Mr. Collins said he was very happy with the outcome. He said he was looking forward to working with the full school board and the administration when he takes his seat in January 2015.
"I am looking forward to voters bringing their issues and concerns to the school board so we can work on them," Mr. Collins said. He acknowledged that he has "a lot to learn," and that he would focus on learning what he needs to know right now.
Mr. Ramos said he was excited, pleased and happy for the chance to serve on the board. He also acknowledged that he has a lot to learn. He said he has no "pre-conceived agenda."
In addition to electing three school board members, Lawrence voters — along with their counterparts statewide — voted to return U.S. Sen. Cory Booker to Washington, D.C., for a full six-year term. Sen. Booker, a Democrat, received 4,962 of his statewide 956,783 votes from Lawrence voters. His Republican Party opponent, Jeff Bell, got 2,284 votes in Lawrence and 717,173 votes statewide.
In the race to replace Rep. Holt, Lawrence voters gave 4,692 votes to Democratic Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and 2,429 votes to Republican Party candidate Dr. Alieta Eck.
Districtwide, Ms. Watson-Coleman, who represents Lawrence in the state’s 15th Legislative District, got 86,578 votes and Dr. Eck earned 52,672 votes.
Democratic Freeholders Lucyille RS Walter and John A. Cimino were re-elected to the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders with 4,506 votes and 4,443 votes, respectively, from Lawrence voters. Countywide, Ms. Walter received 47,693 votes and Mr. Cimino got 48,094 votes.
Their Republican Party challengers, Bhanu "Sunny" Kirpalani and Andrew P. Curcio, got 2,383 votes and 2,401 votes from Lawrence voters. Countywide, they received 24,957 votes and 26,460 votes, respectively.
Incumbent Democratic Sheriff John A. "Jack" Kemler was re-elected, with 4,514 of his 48,693 votes coming from Lawrence voters. His Republican Party challenger, David C. Jones, got 2,531 votes in Lawrence, and 27,036 votes countywide.
And Lawrence voters approved two questions that would amend the state Constitution.
The first question asked voters whether they would approve changing the Constitution to allow a court to order that someone charged with a crime could be kept in jail prior to going to trial —without a chance to post bail and be released — in some situations.
It would be up to a judge to make that decision, based on concerns that the person would not return to court, is a threat to the safety of others, or would obstruct or attempt to obstruct the criminal justice system.
The second question, which was also approved, allows the Constitution to be changed so that 6 percent of the corporation business tax to be used for some environmental programs. State law already allows 4 percent of the corporate business tax to be used for that purpose.
The new dedication of funds would be used to preserve open space, farmland, historic sites and flood-prone areas. Some money also could be used to improve water quality, remove and clean up underground gasoline storage tanks and clean up polluted sites.
By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer