By Gene Robbins, Managing Editor
Most political attention on Election Day Tuesday in Hopewell Valley will focus squarely on the race for one term on the Hopewell Township Committee.
That’s where Harvey Lester, a Republican who is mayor for this year, faces Julie Blake, a high school counselor, for the three-year term. She is a Democrat.
Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Experts forecast a extremely low turnout throughout the state, where the highest race on the ballot are seats in the state’s lower legislative body, the Assembly. A Rutgers University Eagleton poll found that three-quarters of Garden State residents are completely unaware that any elections will be held next week.
The highest race on the ballot will be state’s lower legislative house, the Assembly.
Democratic Assembly members Reed Gusciora and Elisabeth Maher Muoio are running for re-election in the 15th District, which includes Hopewell Township, and Hopewell and Pennington boroughs.
Incumbent Brian Hughes, a Democrat, faces Lisa Richford, a Republican, for a four-year term as Mercer County executive.
Three Mercer freeholders are asking for another three-year term. They are Democrats Ann Cannon, Pasquale “Pat” Colavita Jr. and Samuel Frisby Jr. They face Republicans Anthony Davis, Ira Marks and Jason Lee DeFrancesco.
Incumbent Paula Sollami Covello, a Democrat, and Susan Bagley are contesting the five-year term as county clerk.
As seen by the dozens of letters to the newspaper in recent weeks, most energy resides in the Hopewell Township race, which will decide which party controls the 5-member local governing body.
Mr. Lester, who was elected as a Democrat but switched parties in 2015, pointed to his work, begun on his first day as mayor in January, to pursue reimbursement of $639,000 he said New Jersey owed Hopewell Township.
“Where previous mayors were content with the status quo of being ignored by the state, I led the charge,” Mr. Lester said. “By February, our lawsuit was filed. In August, a judge ruled in our favor. The judge found that we were entitled to compensation in the form of affordable housing credit. We claimed credit of 70 affordable housing units that the township should not build. If built by a developer, the credit could be 420 units of less development.
“The fact is, if not for my leadership, Hopewell Township would still be waiting for the state to stop ignoring us, and we would have a larger affordable housing obligation,” he said.
Democratic candidate Blake, who is in her first electoral race, said she wanted “to preserve the best of Hopewell Township while also develop a vision of where we are going. As a professional counselor, I’m trained to listen. I help people find common sense solutions to points of disagreement.”
“Much of my position at Hunterdon Central Regional High School involves advocating for young people and their families,” she said. “I am new to politics but not new to advocating for others.”
She said she also believed “in understanding context through research. It’s the responsibility of the Township Committee to learn and review best practices and to listen to professionals about what has worked for other communities. In addition, I like to get things done, and would much rather make things work for people than be combative or score political points.”
By Gene Robbins, Managing Editor