Is a Republican Renaissance underway in Princeton? Based on recent voting records, it may be further off than some Republicans would like, but at last Wednesday's reorganization meeting of the Republican Association of Princeton (RAP), members outlined objectives in the coming election cycle and weighed the possibility of fielding viable candidates in the coming years.
RAP members were largely emboldened by last year's election, where Tom Pyle and Gordon Bryant, Republican candidates for Township Committee, received about 45 percent of the vote. The fact that there are no Republicans seeking office in this November's general election ignited a mild debate about whether it is appropriate to run a nominal candidate on a yearly basis, or if a candidate should only be run if an organized and viable campaign is in place.
"It's not embarrassing any more to be a Republican," said Bill Spadea, the Princeton Township resident who made an unsuccessful bid for the state's 12th Congressional District in 2004 against Rep. Rush Holt, "and you don't need to have a candidate every year."
Mr. Spadea spoke to about 30 attendees at Township Hall's Community Room as he warned against candidates looking to "swing for the fence" when putting up a bid for election. He referenced Mr. Pyle's and Mr. Bryant's 2005 campaign and said that momentum could be built locally from there. "You don't need to run a candidate for every single office that's out there the truth is, we're just not organized enough to do that," he said.
Mr. Spadea also said that major issues a reduction in taxes and increased community involvement raised in this year's Democratic primary election were based on issues brought up by Republican candidates in 2005. "We know we're right on the issues," he said.
But Tom Poole, a two-term Republican member of Township Committee from 1985 through 1990, said it could send a "poor signal" to voters if a Republican candidate does not appear on the ballot every year, even if that candidate is in name only.
What was generally agreed upon, however, was that a community campaign to mobilize the party was in order, through mailings and e-mail, and increased membership. Mr. Pyle, who was elected RAP treasurer, said he had received between 40 to 45 responses from residents willing to commit to the group.
Mr. Pyle also emphasized programming as a means to attract potential members, pointing to a recent event at the Nassau Club featuring former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. He added that events should typically stay regional. "There's a strong sentiment that we try to cultivate programs that are local in nature potholes and sticks." He added that events should not always focus on the "out-of-town celebrity type."
Mr. Pyle said that contacts made through his 2005 campaign on the Princeton University campus and at Princeton High School should be maintained.
Richard Woodbridge, the former Township mayor who was also elected RAP vice president, echoed a concern widely expressed in the 2005 campaign that rising property taxes could result in a dissolving middle class: "You lose the blue collar population," he said. Mr. Pyle added that "diversity is a hallmark" of a sustainable community.
Mark Herr, a Great Road resident who was elected RAP president, was not at the meeting, but through a letter, he underlined party building through events, a Web site, and recruitment.
In addition, Bernice Frank, Mark Alexandridis, Michael Carnevale, and Mr. Bryant, were selected to be RAP directors.
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