Pearl Lee, the Republican candidate for Red Bank Mayor last month, told MMM that she reached out to Monmouth Republican Chairman Shaun Golden to express her interest in challenging Democrat Assembly Members Eric Houghtailing and Joann Downey in the 11th legislative district next year.
Lee, 64, a retired small business owner, had never sought elected office before securing the Republican nomination for Red Bank Mayor last year as a write-in candidate in the June primary. She sought the nomination after learning that the local party failed to field a candidate to challenge Democrat Mayor Pat Menna.
“When I learned that the Mayor was running unopposed again, I decided that I would start a grassroots campaign to finally give the residents and property owners a real choice this time,” Lee wrote on her mayoral campaign page.
While she she only got 40.42% of the vote against Menna, she outperformed her Republican running mates and she was invigorated by the experience of running for office. “I met so many great people who supported me, who are hungry for common sense leadership and real solutions. I want to stay involved,” she said,”I feel like I can make a difference.”
Houghtailing and Downey were first elected in 2015 when they scored an upset victory against incumbent Republicans Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande. They defeated Ocean Township Deputy Mayor Rob Acerra and Red Bank Councilman Michael Whalen to secure their second term in 2017 in a campaign that was overshadowed by the contest between Jennifer Beck and Vin Gopal for State Senate.
In 2019, all 80 seats in the Assembly are on the ballot. There are no statewide or federal contests. So far Lee is the only Republican candidate to publicly declare interest in representing the 11th district in Trenton.
The 11th district is comprised of Allenhurst, Asbury Park, Colts Neck, Deal, Eatontown, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Interlaken, Loch Arbor, Long Branch, Neptune City, Neptune Township, Ocean Township, Red Bank, Shrewsbury Borough, Shrewsbury Township, Tinton Falls and West Long Branch.