At a closed meeting Monday night, the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee voted to recommend that incumbent Bernie Miller and Sue Nemeth be allowed to use the official party slogan on the ballot in the June primary race for Princeton Council. The third candidate for the two open slots, incumbent Jo Butler, would be in the same column, but without the slogan, according to the committee.
The Committee offers its recommendations to the Chair, Liz Muio, who makes the final decision.
Made up of two representatives from each of Princeton’s 22 voting districts, the Municipal Committee heard from each of the candidates and asked them questions before voting by secret ballot to decide the placement. Of the 36 ballots cast, Mr. Miller got 22 votes, Ms. Nemeth had 19, and Ms. Butler had 17.
The meeting was held one night after Sunday’s standing-room-only gathering of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Princeton. In front of nearly 400 people, the three candidates delivered statements and then answered questions from the audience as moderated by the League of Women Voters before casting votes.
The purpose was to endorse candidates, but none of the three earned the 60 percent, or 221 votes, required for an endorsement. Mr. Miller received 216 votes, Ms. Nemeth got 197, and Ms. Butler earned 165.
Mr. Miller, who is Council president, and Ms. Nemeth, a former member of Princeton’s Township Committee before consolidation, ran together as a slate. They were backed by Mayor Liz Lempert and Council members Heather Howard and Lance Liverman. Ms. Butler, who was on the former Borough Council before being elected to the current governing body, was supported by Council members Patrick Simon and Jenny Crumiller.
The decision by Mr. Miller and Ms. Nemeth to run as a team has caused a measure of controversy in the community and has been the subject of numerous letters to the editor in Town Topics and other publications. Some of those supporting the slate have inferred that Ms. Butler asks too many questions and stalls the progress on making decisions on various issues. Many in her corner have said that it is because of that persistence that she deserves to be re-elected.
Among the questions posed to the three candidates at the PCDO meeting was what their top priorities were for the coming five years. Mr. Miller said he -wanted to look beyond five years to a broader future, “… maintaining a vital and vibrant central business district in downtown Princeton,” he said. “We are under pressure from big box stores and changes in shopping habits. Council should take the long-term view.”
Ms. Nemeth focused on zoning. “Everything leads back to that,” she said. Ms. Butler’s five-year goal was “… to fulfill the promise of consolidation,” she said. “We have to have our ordinances rewritten and harmonized, and we have to maintain and continue to work on our finances. Everything flows from that.”