Election Season Gearing Up
The City Council has two seats up for election this year, the First Ward and the Second & Third Ward at-large seats. Click here to see a list of current council members, their seats and also their 2010 committee and liaison assignments. The possibility of a third vacancy - for the First Ward seat - should spice up political speculation on how things might play out. For example, if Carter runs in the June primary and wins, she could vacate her seat in favor of an appointee who would then run in the November general election. Winning a Democratic primary in Union County has historically been tantamount to winning the the November election as well.
Depending who files on April 12, the city could see another skirmish in the long battle between the Regular Democratic Organization and a more progressive faction of the party known as the New Democrats. Of course, in the party system, a New Democrat who wins in the primary goes on the November ballot as a putative RDO candidate, regardless of his or her personal philosophy on governance. In local political lore, RDOs are theoretically loyal to the party leadership, including Union County Democratic Chairman Charlotte DeFilippo and Sen. Ray Lesniak. But those with New Dem DNA have been known to retain their ability to think independently.
Political submariners may be exclaiming "Up periscope!" as the April 20 school board election approaches. Although it is a non-partisan election, slates tend to be formed that foreshadow the drawing of political lines in the municipal elections. City coffers and school board chests are the two main pots of money in the city and a majority among elected representatives in either arena can determine how contracts are allocated and how other important fiscal decisions are made, even in the current lean times with more constraints expected.
Fourteen candidates have filed for school board seats this time around. Turnout has traditionally been low, a factor that favors those who are good vote-getters even if others are more qualified to serve. The municipal race usually draws more voters and while its outcome is also based on getting out the vote, it tends to require more strategy on the part of candidates.
Both of these elections are extremely important in these hard times. There are external and internal forces that will make public service more challenging than ever in 2010. Will citizens take an interest and choose carefully, or will these elections engender nothing more than grumbling after the fact? We'll see.