Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 6
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
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Koontz Launches Bid for Freeholder, Looking to Take on Party Stalwarts

Matthew Hersh

Andrew Koontz, the two-term Democrat on the Princeton Borough Council, announced Sunday that he would seek election to the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders this fall, squaring off against a strong slate of opponents.

Mr. Koontz seeks one of two seats up for election this year, both controlled by likely Democratic incumbents, Tony Mack and Lucy Walter. While neither candidate has announced a reelection bid, the field could become crowded if the two incumbents, Mr. Koontz, and potential candidates said to be weighing a run, all enter the race.

Mr. Koontz, 40, was endorsed by the Princeton Community Democratic Organization’s executive committee Sunday. The PCDO is slated to hold its full -endorsement vote for county and state elected positions on March 1. He will seek the endorsement of the Mercer County Democratic Committee at its party convention on March 15.

While Mr. Koontz, who was sworn into a second Borough Council term last month, would appear to have homegrown support, he acknowledged in an interview that squaring off against county heavyweights would present its own challenges.

“This isn’t going to be an easy thing —  going up against incumbents  —  but we’ll see how it goes,” he said, adding that he had not seriously considered a run until last month, when several potential candidates began to surface. “We were seeing a contested race, so I decided to get involved and I’m in strongly,” Mr. Koontz said.

Mr. Koontz is a known commodity beyond Borough boundaries, something he said he would tout during his run. The Princeton Borough Democratic chairman since 1997, he was also a three-time president of the PCDO, as well as the former executive director of the Mercer County Democratic Committee, and a current member of the State Democratic Committee.

“I’m not out there introducing myself as an unknown, so it’s building on my record” within the party, he said. Mr. Koontz added that his run did not represent “an axe to grind” with the incumbents or other Democratic officials, “but about wanting to do a good job on behalf of the party.”

Locally, he is known as a founder and president of the non-profit Princeton Parks Alliance, whose signature effort was the lighting of the Princeton Battle Monument at Borough Hall.

A former CBS News television producer who teaches TV production at Winslow Township High School, Mr. Koontz was first appointed to Council in 2004 to fill a vacancy, and was then elected to a full term later that year. He said he would resign his post if elected to the County freeholder board. In the event of a vacancy on the governing body, the Princeton Borough Democratic Committee, which Mr. Koontz chairs, would be responsible for recommending a replacement. Mr. Koontz said it was “too early” to speculate about Council appointees, but seemed to indicate that in the event of his election, he would not be involved in choosing his own replacement.

On the issues, Mr. Koontz said that he would emphasize the Princetons use of joint services and help to translate that to the county level. “In Princeton, we’re quite good about regionalization and providing regional services. I want to talk about how tightly we have to squeeze the dollar.”

Mr. Koontz also mentioned strain on local roadways, mass transit, and emergency management, as other key issues in his campaign.

A campaign kick-off is scheduled for Sunday, February 10, at 7 p.m. at the Ivy Inn, 248 Nassau Street, in downtown Princeton. Mr. Koontz, who took part in a St. Patrick’s Day beard growing contest last year, will get into the spirit at his kick-off event playing traditional Irish songs on his fiddle.

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