Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 10
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
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Princeton Democrats Give Nod to Koontz as More Vacancies Loom

Matthew Hersh

Princeton Democrats roundly endorsed Borough Councilman Andrew Koontz to fill a vacancy on the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders Saturday, keeping alive the possibility of four available seats on Borough Council come the November elections.

Mr. Koontz received more than the 60 percent threshold needed for an all-out endorsement from the Princeton Community Democratic Organization. Rounding out the pack were incumbent Freeholder Lucylle R.S. Walter, Dan Benson, Alysia Welch Chester, incumbent Freeholder Tony Mack, Michael Maloney, and John Cimino.

The endorsement sets the stage for the March 15 Mercer County Democratic Convention, when an estimated 400 county delegates are expected to turn out to choose a candidate to fill the seat vacated by former Freeholder Elizabeth Muoio, who has been tapped to direct the county’s Office of Economic Development and Sustainability. Mr. Koontz, who said last week that he would resign from Borough Council if he were appointed to the Freeholder board, is facing stiff competition, particularly form Mr. Maloney and Mr. Cimino, who both hail from delegate-heavy Hamilton Township.

In the event of Mr. Koontz being named to fill a vacancy on the county governing body, and in light of the announcement last week that Democratic Borough Councilwoman Wendy Benchley would resign midterm to follow environmental pursuits, the Princeton Borough Democratic Committee, the body that would be charged with recommending candidates for Council vacancies, will have its work cut out for it.

While the fate of Mr. Koontz, who was sworn in to a second term January 1, is not yet clear, Ms. Benchley’s is certain. Her resignation will likely fall toward the end of March, coinciding with the end of the Borough Council monthly calendar, and with bylaw stipulations that would allow a primary vote for election to a special one-year term in November. That term would then expire January 1, 2010, in line with the expiration of Ms. Benchley’s current term.

To date, only Borough resident Kevin Wilkes has expressed interest in filling the seat, though by law, the municipal Democratic committee must nominate three people for Council to consider. An appointee would fill Ms. Benchley’s Council seat until January 1, 2009, though it is expected that anyone vying for appointment to that seat would likely seek outright election in November. Mr. Wilkes has confirmed that he intends to seek election to the seat.

Two other Council seats, held by incumbent Democrats David Goldfarb and Barbara Trelstad, are up for reelection this fall. Both indicated that they would seek reelection.

No Republicans have yet announced a candidacy.

The municipal committee of the party of the resigning member, in this case the Princeton Borough Democratic Committee, will have 15 days from the date of Ms. Benchley’s letter to produce three nominees for consideration to Borough Council. At that point, Council will have 15 days to make an appointment from those three nominees.

Mr. Koontz chairs the Borough Democratic Committee  the body that would recommend nominees to Ms. Benchley’s and, potentially, his own seat. However, Mr. Koontz seemed to indicate that he would not be involved in making recommendations for his own Council seat if appointed to the Freeholder board.

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