Princeton Regional Board of Education member Joshua Leinsdorf slipped under the radar as the 2005 election season began.
Mr. Leinsdorf will appear in the Republican column in the November election, facing two veteran incumbent Democrats, Borough Council President Mildred Trotman and Councilman David Goldfarb, and while he conceded that unseating incumbents will be difficult, he found that the first battle was to find a place on the ballot.
A registered ("reluctant") Democrat running as an Independent, Mr. Leinsdorf's base may surprise voters: Borough Republicans recruited him, and he will be running on the Republican ticket.
Council has not had Republican representation since 1994, when Councilman Ray Wadsworth's term expired, and while Mr. Leinsdorf, 59, is not a Republican, he said the two-party system no longer functions in the Borough.
"The two-party system is broken," he said.
Evidence of his belief in the irreparable damage done to the two-party system was Mr. Leinsdorf's change from registered unaffiliated to Democrat. In 2003, when then-Councilman Joe O'Neill was battling Asm. Reed Gusciora (D-Princeton Borough) in the Democratic primary for mayor, Mr. Gusciora's intention was to be elected to mayor while simultaneously serving as Assemblyman, a practice common among legislators in New Jersey.
And while Mr. Gusciora was not successful in defeating now-Mayor O'Neill in the primary, Mr. Leinsdorf saw that election as an opportunity to commit to a political party.
"I held my nose and registered as a Democrat to vote against dual office," he said, adding that he cannot change his status back to unaffiliated until his registration lapses.
The candidate said that because some Borough Republicans had decided to choose an Independent to appear in the Republican column, it was an opportunity to have his name placed next to his opponents on the ballot.
"The rules are rigged in favor of the two parties, and it's the same with ballot positionsif I had run as an Independent, I wouldn't know where I would appear on the ballot.
"That's why I did it: so I'd appear next to the people I'm running against: the theory is complicated but the effect is not," said Mr. Leinsdorf, a psephologist who studies patterns and trends in elections.
The Independent running on the Republican ballot called the members of Council, all veterans but newcomer Andrew Koontz, a "private club" that is "no longer representing the public interest." He cited the downtown development, barring students without permits from parking on streets immediately surrounding Princeton High School, and Council's lack of participation in the building of sidewalks on a portion of Snowden Lane, which would presumably create a walkway used by students of Littlebrook Elementary.
The sidewalk and parking issues take the forefront in Mr. Leinsdorf's campaign. "I don't think kids should be driving to school unless they have to."
When first elected to the school board five years ago, Mr. Leinsdorf proposed getting rid of the school buses for the middle and high schools and putting into place a more pinpoint public transit system instead, either through a jitney or a more refined public busing system.
"The public transportation system is actually there, but it needs to be better publicized." Mr. Leinsdorf pointed to New Jersey Transit's 606 route, which runs from Princeton Community Village, through downtown Trenton, to the Hamilton Marketplace. Students on their way to schools like Rider University and Notre Dame High School often use the 606 bus.
"Why can't the kids get on that bus? Because it doesn't go past the high school," he said, suggesting that at least one route could be tweaked to accommodate some students going to PHS.
Mr. Leinsdorf said it was not necessarily his incumbent opponents, but the one-party representation on Council that had sparked his interest in running. "With Democrats in control, everyone thought they would work together, but the opposite has occurred."
"When you couldn't get the Democrats on Council and Township Committee to cooperate to get a 1,000-foot sidewalk built on Snowden, that's the point where I decided to run," he said.
The minimum number for write-in votes in the Borough is five: Mr. Leinsdorf received 23. And while his candidacy has largely gone unpublicized, he said that he can be the "advocate" for pedestrians and public transportation, while criticizing the towns for "allowing" the hospital to pursue relocation, a move that, he says, will keep pedestrians from access to the hospital.
"This is going to be a disaster for the Borough if the hospital moves out," he said, adding that Council should be working with the hospital to figure out how the facility can stay. He suggested the entire Valley Road Building propertycurrently home to Princeton Regional Schools administrative officesas a possible hospital destination.
And while the Valley Road property is in the Township, the candidate said the close proximity would benefit both municipalities: "Let's see if we can keep the hospital in Princeton."