April 26, 2023

Primary in Six Weeks, Cohen and Fraga Are Unopposed for Council

By Donald Gilpin

With the June 6 primary less than six weeks away, nominations for Princeton Council, State Senate and General Assembly for the 16th legislative district, Mercer County Executive, and Mercer County Sheriff are all uncontested.

Incumbents David Cohen and Leticia Fraga have filed to run for the Democratic nomination to reclaim their positions on Princeton Council. No Republican candidates have filed to run for Council nomination.

In the primary for State Senate for the 16th district, incumbent Andrew Zwicker is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination, and Michael Pappas is unopposed for the Republican nomination. Zwicker defeated Pappas in the 2021 general election for state senator.

General Assembly primary candidates for two posts in the 16th district are incumbent Roy Freiman and Mitchelle Drulis for the Democrats and Ross Traphagen and Grace Zhang for the Republicans.  Democratic incumbent Sadaf Jaffer has announced that she will not seek re-election to a second term.

In the race for Mercer County Executive, Dan Benson for the Democratic nomination, and Lisa Marie Richford for the Republican nomination are both unopposed.  Longtime incumbent Brian Hughes announced last month that he will not be running for another term.

Democrat John A. “Jack” Kemler and Republican Bryan “Bucky” Boccanfuso in the primary contests for Mercer County Sheriff are also  unopposed.

Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) President Nick DiDomizio urged residents to turn out and vote on June 6 regardless of the lack of competition in this year’s primaries.  “I see my vote as an endorsement and support for our elected officials to keep up the great work,” he wrote in an email, and he praised the accomplishments of Cohen and Fraga.

Looking ahead to November’s general election, DiDomizio warned, “NJ-16 is on the top of the list to be targeted by Republicans to flip seats. In 2021, NJ-16 turned completely blue for the first time and we cannot go back. 2023’s election is forecasted be one of the lowest turnouts ever.”

In response to a request for comment on the upcoming elections and their reasons for running, Cohen and Fraga reflected on the accomplishments of their first two terms and their goals for meeting future challenges facing Princeton.

David Cohen:

“I am seeking to return to Council for a third term because there is so much still to do to complete the work I have begun over my first two terms. For the past three years, reflecting my innate optimism and faith in dialogue, I have devoted much of my energies to tackling some of the more contentious issues we face in the Princeton community, including implementing our Affordable Housing settlement, struggling to find a more equitable and practical solution to on-street parking in our residential neighborhoods, pushing an agenda of safer streets for all through service on the Vision Zero Task Force, and advocating for good design in the community through creation of a viable successor entity when the Site Plan Review Advisory Board was disbanded due to staff and legal concerns about how it was constituted. I try to bring strong listening skills, creative problem solving, patience, and a collaborative disposition to making forward progress on these thorny issues.

“In addition to these special initiatives, I have continued to serve on the Planning Board, and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee; and have begun serving on the recently reconstituted Flood and Stormwater Commission. I am particularly energized by this last assignment, which shapes perhaps the most significant contribution local government can make in our region to preparing for the challenges of climate change, so dramatically exemplified by the ravages of tropical storm Ida in 2021. We are just embarking on a study for creating a stormwater utility in Princeton, a process I have been advocating since I first came on Council, and one which will take years to complete. We are also at a pivotal moment in planning for the future of our community, as the Planning Board prepares and adopts a totally revamped Community Master Plan, a process with which I am intimately involved as a member of the Master Plan subcommittee of the Planning Board. While the new Master Plan should be adopted before the end of the year, ensuring that it is more than a document sitting on the shelf, and that it actively informs governing body decisions going forward, it will be the work of many years, requiring new mechanisms of accountability, and continuity of knowledge and effort.

“I was first inspired to run by the American Institute of Architects “10 Principles for Livable Communities,” and continue to believe that my skill set as a registered architect uniquely qualifies me to provide meaningful input to the decision-making of the governing body.”

Leticia Fraga:

“For the past five years, I have had the honor of serving on Princeton Council.  When first elected, I pledged to represent all voices in our community and, as a member of Council, I have committed to using an equity lens when making policy decisions.  This has meant considering how each decision will impact different groups within our community, and actively seeking to promote fairness and inclusivity in all areas of governance.  By prioritizing equity in our polices, I believe we can work towards a more just and equitable society, where everyone has access to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive. 

“My work on Council has been focused on ensuring that all members of our vulnerable population have access to basic needs like food, housing, and health care, as well as moving forward and supporting policies that improve the quality of life of all residents.

As a first-generation immigrant, I know firsthand what it means to fight for better opportunities for our families. It continues to be a priority of mine to ensure we are creating and supporting policies that provide our residents with the resources needed to lead heathy and fulfilling lives. 

“During my time on Council, my colleagues and I have moved forward policies that will create more affordable housing for low and middle-income residents, as well as additional housing for developmentally disabled adults and for seniors.  We have made great strides in improving the quality of life in our community and I am eager to continue this progress.

“As liaison to the Board of Health, the Human Services and Civil Rights Commissions, and as Chair of the Public Safety Committee, I continue to be closely involved in formulating policies that address the safety, health, and the wellbeing of residents.

“While on Council, it has been my distinct privilege both to serve and to lead. I had the honor of serving as Council President in 2021 and in 2022 and am incredibly proud of the work that my colleagues and I have accomplished together. Through collaboration and a shared commitment to progress, we have made great strides in improving our community and creating positive change.  I am inspired by the dedication and hard work of my fellow Council members to make Princeton a better place for all who live and work here.  I look forward to continuing to work together to build a brighter future for our community.

“As a member of Princeton Council, I will continue to advocate for fair policies and strive to create a community that works for everyone.  I will work to ensure that our infrastructure is up to date, our businesses and community partners flourish, and our families are safe and secure.  I believe that Princeton has been a leader and often an example of what a thriving community looks like.  By working together, I am confident we can continue to prosper.”