October 27, 2021

Early Voting Continues Through Oct. 31; Election Day is Next Tuesday, Nov. 2

By Donald Gilpin

In-person early voting, continuing through Sunday, October 31, was already in its third day on Monday at Princeton’s designated early voting location at the Princeton Shopping Center (PSC) to the left of the Bagel Nook.

Foot traffic was light on Monday afternoon, but the five poll workers on duty reported that the turnout had been steady, that voters had mostly been coming in waves, and that they all seemed to appreciate the comfort, security, and the leisurely pace of the spacious location in the PSC, as well as the new voting machines using digital technology. Early voting will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Early voters can visit the PSC site or any of the seven other early voting sites in the county.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law in March making New Jersey the latest of dozens of states to have early in-person voting at centralized locations. Mail-in voting has also begun, and voters can still cast ballots the traditional way at the usual polling places on Election Day, November 2, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Vote-by-mail ballots must be postmarked and mailed by November 2; placed in the drop boxes at 400 Witherspoon Street or at the Princeton University Wawa/Dinky Station at 152 Alexander Street by November 2; or delivered to the county’s Board of Elections Office by 8 p.m. on November 2. Visit vote.nj.gov, “Elections” at mercercounty.org, or call (877) NJ-VOTER for more information.

In Princeton, there are contested elections for governor, state Senate, general Assembly, Mercer County surrogate, Mercer County Board of Commissioners, and Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education (BOE). Also on the ballot are three public questions and an uncontested race for two seats on Princeton Council.

Four candidates — two incumbents and two new challengers — are running for three positions with three-year terms on the BOE. Betsy Baglio, who has a son at Princeton Middle School (PMS) and a son at Princeton High School (PHS), is seeking her third term on the board, where she has chaired the Student Achievement and Equity committees and led the recent interim superintendent and superintendent searches. Baglio, 47, has worked as a teacher in public schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts, as a professional development director, and as an educational consultant for various schools and districts.

Brian McDonald, who is seeking his second term on the Board, is a sculptor and designer with an extensive background in public finance. His daughter and two sons all went through the PPS, graduating from PHS. Among other leadership roles in his 26 years of service to the community, McDonald, 61, served as Princeton University’s vice president for development for eight years. He has worked in a number of different areas during his tenure on the School Board, with a focus on district finance and facilities.

New candidate Mara Franceschi, 50, is a financial analyst who has worked for more than 10 years in the financial services and asset management industries. She has volunteered extensively in the PPS, including four years as treasurer and then three years as president of the Johnson Park PTO.  Her three children have attended JP, PMS, and PHS.

New candidate Jeffrey Liao, 42, a graduate of Harvard Law School, worked as an intellectual property attorney in New York and Los Angeles before moving to Princeton in 2020 as the sole U.S. patent counsel for a multinational pharmaceutical company. He has a first-grade child at Littlebrook and a seventh-grader at PMS. He has emphasized the importance of keeping the schools open and safe during the ongoing pandemic, of maintaining excellence and fiscal responsibility in PPS, and enhancing inclusivity and civic participation by bringing his perspective as an Asian American to the BOE.

The four PPS Board of Education candidates have been profiled in recent issues of Town Topics.

On the ballot for Princeton Council, unopposed and running for three-year terms, are Democrats Eve Niedergang, an incumbent, and community leader Leighton Newlin.

Running for the state Senate in the 16th legislative district (which Includes parts of Mercer, Hunterdon, Middlesex, and Somerset counties) for the seat currently held by Republican Christopher (Kip) Bateman, who is stepping down at the end of the year, are Republican Michael Pappas and Democrat Andrew Zwicker. 

Pappas was Franklin Township mayor, 1983-84, a U.S. congressman, 1997-99, and has served as Bridgewater municipal administrator since 2020.  Zwicker, a South Brunswick resident, has served in the state Assembly since 2016. He is head of science education at the Princeton University Plasma Physics Laboratory.

The race for two seats in the New Jersey Assembly representing the 16th district pits two Democrats, incumbent Roy Freiman and new candidate Sadaf Jaffer, against Republican challengers Joseph Lukac III and Vincent Panico.

Freiman, an insurance executive and Hillsborough resident, has served in the Assembly since 2018. Jaffer, who would be the first-ever Asian American woman or Muslim in the New Jersey legislature, is a postdoctoral research associate and lecturer in South Asian studies at Princeton University and the former mayor of Montgomery Township. 

Lukac , a U.S. Army veteran, Manville councilman, and a former school board member, is an electrical and instrumentation supervisor. Panico, a Readington IT executive, is president of the Hunterdon Central Board of Education.

In other races on the ballot, Democratic incumbent Mercer County Surrogate Diane Gerofsky is defending her position against Republican challenger Douglas Miles, and in the election for Board of Mercer County Commissioners, Republicans Richard Balgowan, Michael Chianese, and Andrew Kotula Jr. are challenging Democrats Kristin McLaughlin, Terrance Stokes, and the incumbent board chair Samuel Frisby for three available positions.

At the top of the ballot are the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, with incumbent Democrat Murphy and running mate Sheila Oliver running to win a second four-year term against Republican challengers Jack Ciattarelli and running mate Diane Allen.

All New Jersey voters wiil also be asked to respond to two public questions, one about expanding sports betting to college events and another about allowing certain organizations to use proceeds from bingo, raffles, and other games of chance for their own organizations.  Mercer County voters will respond to a third public question about allowing the county to change the allocation of funds raised by the county for open space, recreation, farmland, and the Historic Trust Fund. The county proposition would not increase the voter-approved taxes.