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Vol. LXII, No. 12
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
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Koontz Comes Up Short in County Bid, Suspends Campaign and Endorses Slate

Matthew Hersh

Andrew Koontz, the two-term Princeton Borough Councilman, has ended his bid for a spot on the Mercer County governing body, falling short Saturday in an attempt to receive an endorsement by the Mercer County Democratic Committee.

The candidate had hoped to fill a vacancy created March 1 on the county’s Board of Chosen Freeholders when then-Freeholder Elizabeth Muoio resigned to take a job with the county.

However, Mr. Koontz, 40, who launched his candidacy less than eight weeks ago, failed to garner enough votes of support, with county Democrats endorsing incumbent Lucy Walter, and John Cimino of Hamilton for the two open spots in the November general election, and placing Hamilton Township Councilman Dan -Benson in the board’s vacant seat.

Ms. Walter secured the required 60 percent of the vote in the first round of balloting to win her party’s nomination; however, incumbent Freeholder Tony Mack of Trenton did not garner the votes to continue to the second round of voting. The party then endorsed Mr. Cimino for Mr. Mack’s seat.

Mr. Cimino, who waged an unsuccessful bid for Hamilton Township Council last year, prevailed in a second round of balloting against Mr. Koontz, and Alysia Welch-Chester, a Trenton activist.

In an interview Monday, Mr. Koontz said he could have taken part in a runoff against Mr. Cimino because Mr. Cimino’s endorsement came two votes short of the required number, but relented. “I was in the position where I could have asked for a third ballot, but Cimino was just shy of 50 percent, and I didn’t think all of [Ms. Welch-Chester’s] votes would go to me, so I just turned to John and said ‘congratulations.’

“We came up a little short on the first ballot, and I still want to serve on the Freeholder Board,” Mr. Koontz said, “but I will look down the road toward next year.”

Mr. Koontz, who was sworn in to a second three-year term on Borough Council in January, said he would support the candidacies of Mr. Cimino and Ms. Walter.

The Borough Councilman lauded the endorsement process, saying that “all of the candidates handled themselves well.

“It wasn’t about personalities and it wasn’t a negative campaign at all,” he said.

Mr. Koontz, who also chairs the Princeton Borough Democratic Committee, said he would continue to build contacts outside the Princetons for a possible future bid for county government.

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