Voters in Highlands, Keansburg and Long Branch will go to the polls next Tuesday (May 13) to elect members of their towns governing bodies in non-partisan elections.
Highlands has the only competitive race of the three towns with elections next week. The Sandy ravaged borough is having its first non-partisan election. Last November voters approved a referendum that moved municipal election day to May and did away with party lines.
Six candidates are running for two seats on the council. None of the six are bracketed together or share the same slogan.
Incumbent Council Members Rebecca Kane and Chris Francy are defending their seats. Kane, elected as a Democrat, is seeking her fourth, non-consecutive term on the council. She lost the mayor’s race to Frank Nolan last November. Kane’s slogan is Committed to Community. Dedicated to Progress. Francy was twice Kane’s Democratic running mate. He’s seeking his third term, this time under the banner Flood Control Advocate for Renewed Highlands. Francy was Nolan’s Democratic opponent for mayor in 2010.
Kane and Francy voted down a proposed zoning ordinance last year which would have potentially lead to a $100 million development being built on what is now a trailer park. Kane voted for giving Patrick DeBlasio his six concurrent government job, Highlands CFO. Francy voted, with Nolan, against DeBlasio’s hiring.
Kane is a contracts administrator for a local telecommunications firm. Francy is a retired mechanical engineer.
Richard O’Neil, a Republican, served three terms as mayor, a partial term on the council prior to his election as mayor and one term on the council after stepping down from his reelection campaign for mayor in 2007 to make way for Anna Little. O’Neil is running with the slogan Proven Leadership Proven Performance. He managed Highlands’s clean up from Superstorm Sandy as a volunteer at Mayor Nolan’s request. He currently serves on the Zoning Board and the Housing Commission. O’Neil says he wants the municipal government to be friendlier to those who want to invest in Highlands’ revitalization and increase the use of shared services agreements to reduce municipal budget. O’Neil is a union pipe-fitter.
John Urbanski was elected to the council three times as a Democrat after losing his first race as an Independent. He finished his third term in 2009. Urbanski said he regrets some of the decisions he made during his tenure on the council and will now aggressively encourage new investment in Highlands. Like O’Neil, Urbanski said Highlands should enter into regional service agreements whenever possible. He is running without a slogan. Urbanski owns and operates a auto repair and towing facility.
Larry Colby and Doug Card have not previously served on the borough’s governing body.
Colby, a member of the Planning Board and Chairman of the Clam Depuration Plant Commission, is a life long Highlands resident with deep ties in the community. He has no ballot slogan. His lawn signs say Renew, Restore, Rebuild. Colby manages his family’s real estate interests and his brother’s plumbing company. His is a board member of the Highlands Business Partnership.
Card ran a write-in campaign for mayor last November, garnering 15% of the vote. He was also a leader of the movement to change Highlands elections to the new non-partisan process. His campaign slogan in Non-partisan. Card is running on a platform of transparency and accountability. He was appointed by Nolan to serve on the borough’s Environmental Commission and was involved with the Housing Committee during the FEMA Long Term Recovery process. 46 years old, Card is retired from the hospitality industry and is financially independent. He does freelance carpentry from time to time.
This race is impossible to predict for this former Highlands GOP Chairman. Turnout for the first non-partisan election is the big question. Gun to my head, I would say only 600-700 voters, roughly 30%, of the voters turn out.
From the looks of lawn signs around town, it looks to be a three person race between Card, Colby and Kane. But lawn signs are not a reliable indicator in Highlands. Card and Kane are working social media, but neither of them are working it as well as Nolan did last year in his successful reelection bid. O’Neil and Urbanski have a history of winning with last minute get out the vote efforts of their sizable, for Highlands, personal networks. Francy’s smartest supporter has started to stir the pot on social media in an attempt to weaken support for Card and Colby. There are more members of the Highlands facebook group, 1,200, than there are likely voters in the election.
Whoever works smartest and hardest for the next seven days will win.
We’ll summarize the Long Branch and Keansburg races, such as they are, later this week. The incumbents are set up to win easily in both.