Red Bank Republicans paint the town red

Staff Writer

While Republicans are celebrating a return to power in Red Bank, Democrats will seek a recount of the results of the municipal election. Democrats say they will challenge the Nov. 3 election results that have borough Republicans winning two council seats, with one by just a few votes.

With provisional ballots counted, Republican newcomer Michael Whelan defeated Democratic incumbent Michael DuPont by two votes.

“I think it’s important to make sure all votes are counted and no one is left disenfranchised,” DuPont said, adding that he believes the recount would be good for both parties.

According to DuPont, Red Bank Democrats will file for a recount of the 3,885 votes cast and 17 provisional ballots

In order to request a recount, a candidate must believe there has been some error made in the counting process, according to Laura Kirkpatrick, spokeswoman for Monmouth County. The request must be filed with state Superior Court, and the party must pay for the recount, at a rate of $25 per district. Red Bank has nine districts.

Borough Republicans are confident the recount will confirm the current results.

“We respect his right to file for a recount. … I guess that is what he wants his last act on council to be,” said Republican chairman Sean Di Somma.

Di Somma added that he believes the results would be the same and looks forward to working in a bipartisan manner with Democratic Mayor Pasquale Menna and the remaining Democrats on council.

“We think [DuPont] should bow out gracefully and we look forward to a unity breakfast with the Democrats.” Election night proved to be one that Republicans in the borough won’t soon forget. According to results released by the county, Republicans shattered the two-decade long Democratic majority in borough government.

In a tight electoral battle for control of the Borough Council, preliminary results showed that Republican newcomers Mark Taylor and Whelan came out ahead of DuPont and Michael Ballard.

Initial results on Election Day showed that Taylor and Whelan collected 1,029 and 963 votes, respectively.

DuPont and Ballard trailed with 959 and 925, respectively, and provisional ballots reduced DuPont’s four-vote deficit to two.

“It’s an honor to try to lead Red Bank forward with a new team, with a new majority. It’s a new day for Red Bank,” said Whelan amidst a crowd of cheering supporters.

Taylor thanked residents for coming out in an election year that had low voter turnout.

“We really want to thank the residents for mobilizing and voting in a low-turnout year and going out to make their voices heard again in Red Bank,” said Taylor.

“To have a message of change for a town that hasn’t had change in 25 years is incredible.”

If the win holds up, it would give Republicans a 4-2 majority on council, a reversal of the current Democratic majority.

Republicans celebrated what looked to be a historic night at the Chowda House on Bridge Avenue with state Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) and former Red Bank mayor Michael Arnone.

“We had no polls to go by, we didn’t have any numbers, but the feeling in the air was that these guys had the wind at their backs,” said Arnone who was the last Republican mayor of the borough and served the last time the party had a majority on council.

For the past three years, Republicans have been making their way back onto the Borough Council with the election of Cindy Burnham in 2013 and Linda Schwabenbauer last year.

For Republicans, the support they received from districts on the west side of the borough, such as districts eight and nine, which traditionally vote Democratic, helped them pull off the win.

“We as a party made a lot of inroads into both the African American and Latino community. We’ve made a lot strides in the west side and we are preparing for the future,” said Di Somma.

“Every district in this town will be overwhelmingly competitive going forward.”

With the results showing second and third place separated by just a handful of votes, Democrats from their campaign headquarters on Broad Street said they would contest the results.

“We are not giving up; there is going to be a recount,” Menna told a crowd of Democratic supporters.

Despite results looking unfavorable for borough Democrats, Menna told the supporters that regardless of the election outcome, the party would keep the borough moving forward.

“What hasn’t changed, and will not be changing by this decision, will be our vision. Our vision is the correct one to move Red Bank in a forward, progressive, urbanist fashion to cater to our residents, build up and make our education system better and also to develop our core areas of the municipality to serve the interests of all of Red Bank.”

The low turnout, tied with an election cycle that only had state Assembly seats on the ballot, played a part in the final results and was the reason Democrats say they lost the election.

“It was clear that because there was such a low voter turnout and if you look there was no one on top of the ticket,” said DuPont.

For Ballard, who stepped into the race six weeks away from Election Day following the exit of Arthur Murphy, who resigned his council seat, the campaign did all that it could to sway voters to their side.

“We put out the best message we could. … We are qualified and experienced, as well as we put out a positive message to keep the town moving forward. I think we did the best we possibly could,” said Ballard.

Former mayor Edward J. McKenna also spoke to that effect, expressing confidence that in the next election things would be different for the Democrats.

“This is the worst of the worst years to run as a Democrat. We caught an off year. There was nobody at the top of the ticket, there’s not anyone to help us out. It’s traditionally known as an off year.”

“Next year we have a presidential election. That’s our best year. If we win both seats next year, we are right back in the saddle and we are right back in the right direction.”

Next year two Borough Council seats will be up for grabs. Democratic Council President Kathleen Horgan and Republican Councilwoman Cindy Burnham now hold those seats.

In addition to Horgan, Democrats on the council are Ed Zipprich and Menna.