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Republicans Eye Township Office

Matthew Hersh

Two Republican candidates beat the 4 p.m. filing deadline Monday to enter a once uncontested election for two spots on Princeton Township Committee.

The candidates, Gordon Bryant of Ettl Circle, and Thomas Pyle of Balsam Lane, are relatively new to the municipal political scene, but each hopes to fill a spot on the governing body of a town that has not elected a Republican since 1992.

The two men join Democrats Vicky Bergman of Leabrook Lane, and incumbent Deputy Mayor Bernie Miller of Philip Drive, in a race that has suddenly doubled in candidates.

And while the four candidates will not likely begin an aggressive campaign until after Labor Day, the parameters have been set for an election that is just under seven months away.

"It's very early," said Mr. Miller, who is looking to be elected to his second full term on Committee. "But I'm looking forward to meeting the two [Republican] candidates and looking forward to discussing publicly those issues that are most important in the Township."

Mr. Bryant, an independent consultant providing debt finance structuring advisory services, is a 10-year resident of Princeton Township. He lives with his wife, Ann, a business development consultant in pharmaceuticals, and their twin sons, Allen and Douglas, both of whom attend the Princeton Charter School.

Mr. Bryant has also served as an advisor to the Chinese government to help develop a project that finances frameworks for public infrastructural needs.

Mr. Pyle, 53, serves as chairman of TerraCycle, Inc., a company whose service transforms solid waste materials into liquid plant food which is sold by several large area retailers.

A 34-year Township resident and graduate of Princeton University, Mr. Pyle is also executive director of the Strathmore University Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that serves Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya – the country's first multiracial college.

Mr. Pyle's background also includes a long career in finance, working with the Deutsche Bank and Bank Austria in Hong Kong, Chase Manhattan in Korea, and finally Wm. Sword & Co. in Princeton. He and his wife, Molly Tan, have two children: Tara, 20, and Adam, 19. Both are Princeton High School graduates.

Mr. Pyle said he was not deterred by the fact that Princeton has voted overwhelmingly Democratic for more than a decade: "It's reality, I suppose; but, especially in Princeton, there deserves to be a diversity of views and positions from all sides."

"I understand the impulse for the Democratic ideal is to be more socially-oriented while Republicans are more fiscally-oriented, but either way, this is about combining both and people will most likely respond to that," he said, adding that "Princeton people are independently-minded and will carefully consider all the issues and articulations rather than just pull levers for the sake of party affiliation."

Democratic candidate Ms. Bergman, 60, is a former budget and program analyst for the New Jersey State Legislature, and spent three years in the Carter Administration as public affairs officer of the White House Regulatory Council.

She and her husband, Dick, currently run their own consulting company and are co-founders and board members of Community Without Walls, a not-for-profit, 450-member organization that helps senior citizens age "in place" by offering services, including social support, information, education, and advocacy.

A 32-year Township resident, Ms. Bergman served nine years on the Township's Zoning Board of Adjustment in addition to five years on the planning board, three years of which she served as chair.

Ms. Bergman seemed encouraged by the variety of candidates in the upcoming election. "We hope lots of people get involved and come out this year," she said. "If you've got a good, exciting campaign at one level, no matter what it is, whether it's the gubernatorial or the local, where people are energized, it'll get more people out to vote."

A retired senior vice president of Lockheed Martin Corp., Mr. Miller was nominated to Township Committee in June 2002 to fill a seat after Committeeman Steve Frakt resigned. Mr. Miller was subsequently elected to a three-year term. Mr. Miller has placed an emphasis on increasing senior housing, maintaining the Township's AAA bond rating, and addressing infrastructural demands as the municipality becomes more developed.

As per county election laws, Mr. Pyle and Mr. Bryant needed only seven signatures each on their filing petitions to qualify for entry. The signature requirement is determined by a minimum of five percent of the number of Republican voters in the last primary election when the General Assembly was up for election. Democratic candidates, Ms. Bergman and Mr. Miller, each needed 17 signatures to file. Statistically, of the 11,000 registered Township voters, Democrats outnumber Republicans by a margin of about two to one. Before Democrats took a stronghold in the early- to mid-1990s however, the Township was largely Republican for much of its 167-year history.

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