Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 15
 
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
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Republican Challengers Surfacing Locally as Races Get Crowded

Matthew Hersh

Despite falling short in 2005, following the first solid Republican outing posted in years in the Township, local Republicans vowed to make sure that future candidates did more than simply fill a space on the ballot column.

Then 2006 came, along with poll-baiting ingredients like contests in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and Princeton Democrats ran unopposed and skated to re-election, hitting nary a Republican bump along the way.

But this year, Republicans are hoping some of that momentum from two years ago will translate to a winning formula.

In the Township, Esther Mills and Cindy Randazzo are going up against incumbent Democrats Phyllis Marchand and Lance Liverman, and in the Borough, Linda Sipprelle and Joe Codega will square off against incumbents Roger Martindell and Andrew Koontz. All four of the Democratic candidates announced their intentions to run last month.

"These are towns that used to be known as solidly Republican towns, but in the last 20 years, there have been more Democrats and Independents moving in," said Mark Herr, president of the Republican Association of Princeton (RAP) last week. "In 2005, we did well, surprising some, but in 2006, the years of transition caught up with us and we were unable to field candidates," he said, pointing to the 2005 candidacies of Tom Pyle and Gordon Bryant, who waged unsuccessful attempts to derail the candidacy of now-Committeewoman Vicky Bergman and to unseat Township Deputy Mayor Bernie Miller.

"When we looked around in 2006, we didn't feel that we would be doing the electorate a service by putting a slapdash campaign together," Mr. Herr said. "Voters would have been poorly suited to have a bad campaign."

But in the summer of 2006, Republicans began meeting regularly, trying to reinvigorate a party that had struggled to stay afloat in recent years. Democrats were well organized, and fresh candidates kept surfacing. November elections became irrelevant on the local level because, even now, more races are waged in the primary.

Mr. Herr's group hopes to change that, along with the Republican caricature of "old white guys, smoking cigars in a room."

"We have a good foursome, and we're working very closely together," said Ms. Sipprelle, adding that policies are still solidifying.

Mr. Codega, a sophomore at Princeton University, acknowledged that he was coming in as an outsider, but that his involvement with the RAP, and with the University's Princeton College Republicans introduced him to the party's reorganization.

"I saw University students participating in the community, and I think too often, University students ignore their community relationship," he said. "This should be about real civic responsibility."

Ms. Mills, who is a professional mental health counselor, met Mr. Pyle and Mr. Bryant while working at Princeton Community Television, as the Princeton Taxpayers Association, a resident-based advocacy group, looked to televise a candidates' debate at the Hun School in 2005.

Ms. Randazzo, a businesswoman and a self-described "newcomer," quipped that when she first arrived to Princeton from her native Michigan, she "had to hide under a rock because I was a Republican.

"I never envisioned this, but I think the possibilities are endless — there are still some things that can be done here."

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Town Topics will profile each candidate running for Borough and Township elected office in the coming months.

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