PRINCETON: Mayor Liz Lempert welcomes all challengers in next election

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert on Monday did not shrink from the prospect of fellow Democrat and Councilman Patrick Simon challenging her next year in her re-election race.
“I think that elections are a part of a healthy democracy, and part of being an elected official is campaigning,” she said after attending a ribbon cutting at the post office on Nassau Street. “I love campaigning.”
Those were her first public comments on the topic since Mr. Simon said last week that he is weighing a run for mayor. In an interview, he made clear that he had not made a decision, and said he would reach out to others in the community to gauge his level of support.
“I advised him to consider fully the time commitment involved both in running and in serving, and also to make sure he could articulate a positive message to run on,” said Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee chairman Peter Wolanin by email on Monday.
Should Mr. Simon enter the race, it would set up a clash in the Democratic primary pitting factions of Princeton Democrats against one another in a replay of what happened last year in the council race between Councilwoman Jo S. Butler and former Township Committeewoman Sue Nemeth.
Like Ms. Butler, Mr. Simon is aligned with Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller and her husband, Jon. In fact, Mr. Simon had worked for Mr. Crumiller’s consulting firm, until he recently left the company.
“As far as I know, Patrick is having exploratory conversations, and I’m not sure if he’s made up his mind to run or not,” Ms. Butler said Monday.
Asked if she thought he could win, Ms. Butler said she did not want to speculate.
“What I think is, Patrick has a lot to recommend him,” she said. “I think he’s proven himself to be a tireless worker. He’s detailed-oriented.”
For her part, Mayor Lempert announced earlier this month that she was running for re-election to another four-year-term. She said Mr. Simon’s plans have no bearing on what she does.
“I was planning to run a campaign no matter what, and I think whenever there’s an election, it’s an important time to be discussing issues with the community,” she said. “I mean, we do that all the time, but there tends to be heightened interest around elections. And I look forward to that.”
In mild criticism of Mayor Lempert, Mr. Simon said she had done a “good job” in some respects but “struggled” in others. He did not elaborate.
Asked if she thought he was mayoral timber, Mayor Lempert said, “That’s for the voters to decide.”
Mayor Lempert said she did not think Mr. Simon’s potential candidacy would flavor or influence how the two of them get along.
“We work together,” she said.
In terms of how a potential clash between Mayor Lempert and Mr. Simon might affect council, Ms. Butler said she thought “everyone will get along just fine.”
Mr. Simon’s decision would have implications not only for himself but also the rest of council. His seat is up in 2016, so he would have to decide between running for mayor or seeking re-election.
Mr. Simon said he also had not made up his mind about running for his council seat. He was elected in 2012 and, because he drew a one-year term when the consolidated council was seated in January 2013, won re-election in 2013 to a three-year-term. 
As for Ms. Crumiller, she said Thursday that she is running for re-election to her council seat that she won in 2012 and retained, also in 2013. She is a former borough councilwoman.