The hope of a new beginning was replaced with anger today in Asbury Park when the new city council was sworn in.
John Moor, the top vote getter in the May 14 non-partisan election, was expected to be appointed mayor by his colleagues, as is the tradition. He had the 3 votes he needed on the 5 person council by virtue of his own election and that of two of his running mates, Amy Quinn and Myra Campbell who ran on the One Asbury ticket in the non-partisan election.
Then sometime over the weekend, Campbell split with her running mates and made a deal with returning council members John Lofreddo and Susan Henderson, who ran for reelection on the Forward Asbury ticket, to get the mayoral title for herself.
The mayor’s office in Asbury Park is largely ceremonial in the city’s form of government. The appointed City Manager, a full time employee appointed by the council, runs the day to day operations of the city. Asbury Park elects their entire council once every four years.
Campbell told AsburyParkSun that she made the move in order to become the first African-American mayor of the city.
“A window of opportunity that has never been opened for an African-American female in this city, and may never be opened again, was presented to me,” said Campbell, “This was an extremely difficult decision to make knowing tradition would be changed and would affect two people I’ve worked with for months.”
She said she offered her running mates alternate terms as Deputy Mayor, which they turned down. Henderson was elected Deputy Mayor by the same 3-2 marigin that Campbell received.
Moor and Quinn suddenly found themselves in the minority. Their comments about Campbell’s move are likely to assure their continuing minority status:
“I’m flabbergasted,” said Moor. “She knocked on doors and said we have to get rid of the incumbents, and now she cuts a deal with the incumbents.”
“I’m not surprised that Sue Henderson and John Loffredo don’t respect the will of the people of Asbury Park or the tradition of highest voter getters being Mayor and Deputy Mayor, but I’m deeply disappointed that Myra Campbell doesn’t respect the will of the people of Asbury Park either,” Quinn said in a statement.
The drama is bound to continue in Asbury Park. A losing ticket, United Asbury, has a lawsuit pending that could change the result of the election by forcing ballots that were rejected by the Monmouth County Board of Elections to be counted. Campbell and Henderson, the new mayor and deputy mayor, were the low vote getters in the official count and the most likely to lose their offices should United Asbury prevail in their suit.
The Asbury Park Charter Commission is due to make recommendations on a new form of government for the city on August 5. Members of the commission of indicated that they are likely to at least recommend creating staggered terms for council members. Should the commission issue such a report and if the city voters approve it in the November election, there will be a new election next year.