LWV debates to feature Hightstown hopefuls, but not East Windsor Democrat candidates

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
HIGHTSTOWN – Four candidates are running for Hightstown Borough Council and will be participating in the upcoming candidate forum Thursday night, while there will be no debate for the East Windsor candidates.
The League of Women Voters (LWV) of East Windsor-Hightstown is sponsoring the forum from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, in room 601, the media room, at the Hightstown High School at 25 Leshin Lane.
“This forum is part of a tradition of local forums that have taken place over the roughly 40-year existence of the LWV here in East Windsor-Hightstown, and it shares the tradition of the national League which conducted presidential and vice presidential debates in the 1970s and 80s,” said Deborah Macmillan, local board member of the League of Women Voters of East Windsor-Hightstown, in a press release.
The forums are part of the League’s mission of encouraging informed and active participation in government and of working to increase understanding of major public policy issues, she said.
“In 2015 the LWV of East Windsor-Hightstown welcomes new members, both male and female, to work with us to carry out this mission, whether with respect to local elections, local government, or other issues such as the logistics of constitutional amendments and the impact of campaign finance, both of which are now under discussion in our monthly meetings,” she said in the release.
The League cited the Hightstown candidates, first for putting themselves forward as candidates, and also for agreeing to work with the League by participating in this forum.
The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan, multi-issue grassroots organization that encourages informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, according to the press release.
“The East Windsor Republicans are extremely disappointed to announce that there will not be a debate for Town Council candidates this year,” said East Windsor Republican candidate Steven Uccio in a press release.
He said that all four Republican candidates, Paul “PJ” Hummel, Darren Feist, Sean O’Connor, and himself were willing to stand up on the stage.
“We were all willing to address the concerns of the residents of East Windsor and explain why we were the best choice for Township Council,” said Mr. Uccio said. “Unfortunately, our opponents have refused to attend.
“We received an email that simply stated ‘The East Windsor Democrats have indicated that they will not participate in the LWV Candidates forum this year. That means the forum is cancelled since, as you are aware, the League does not do empty chair debates,’” he said.
The League of Women Voters did confirm that its board member, Carolyn Rosen, who is in charge of the debates, did send the statement.
“In light of the tone set by our opponents at our council meetings, we do not believe that this forum would add constructive information to assist the voters’ ability to make their decisions,” said the East Windsor Democrat candidates in a joint press release on Tuesday.
According to the press release, they have all been in office several years, are visible and accessible to the public, and have a substantial record on which the voters can judge their views and performances in office.
“This record includes delivering high quality services (as public works, construction, police, recreation and senior center building and programs), bringing new stores and business, keeping the municipal tax component low and flat, maintaining a low debt level which allows the Township to borrow at a one–half of one percent interest rate and maintain a high bond rating, preserving open space and farmland, improving roadways and constructing new pathways, and obtaining significant grants and private funding to pay for township equipment and projects,” the statement read.
“We have been (and continue to be) campaigning actively, meeting with residents door-to-door and at other forums and events to discuss our accomplishments and experience, and their interests and opinions, and we are encouraged by the response to our positive message,” the statement said. “We thank the League of Women Voters for its efforts and expect to participate in its forums in the future as we have done in past elections.”
“This is the move of incumbent politicians who have everything to lose and nothing to gain from going to a public forum and being challenged,” Mr. Uccio said in the press release.
Incumbents who hope to win on name recognition in an off election year, he added.
“Our opponents are satisfied with business as usual and a creeping debt,” he said. “We want to talk about moving forward. Reigning in our debt of $21 million, direct elections of our mayor, clearer budgets, ballot questions to empower voters, transparency improvements at township meetings, and concerns with our roads.”
He said they would like to the people of East Windsor to know they are ready to discuss issues with them at the venue of their choosing.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. This year there are four, four-year term seats open on the East Windsor Township Council.
East Windsor Township candidates are Democrat incumbents Mayor Janice Mironov, who is looking to serve her 20th consecutive year as mayor if she wins in the fall and council members re-elect her to the position; her running mates, Deputy Mayor Marc Lippman and Councilmen Peter Yeager and John Zoller. Republicans are Paul “PJ” Hummel and his running mates Steve Uccio, Darren Feist and Sean O’Connor.
This year there are two, three-year seats open on the Hightstown Borough council.
Hightstown Borough Council candidates vying for the full-term seats are incumbent Democrat Susan Bluth, incumbent Democrat Seth Kurs, former Republican councilwoman Lynne Woods who is running again, and candidate mayor in 2014 Douglas Mair.
The forum will be moderated by Karen Siracusa, a League-trained moderator from Lawrence Township, who will asked questions from the League and questions that will be collected from the audience.
Candidates will begin with a one-minute opening statement about their background and experience.
Members of the public are welcome to submit brief questions both in advance to Carolyn Rosen by emailing her at carolynrosen@verizon.net) or at the forum itself.
The forum with end with closing statements from the candidates, who will be given two minutes to address the audience.
The event will be recorded by the Hightstown TV Production class and rebroadcast on Comcast Channel 27 and Verizon Channel 38 at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. after the forums and continuing every Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday staring Oct.24 through Election Day, Nov. 3.