After witnessing Republican Bob Turner win in former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner's traditionally Democratic district in New York City, Republican mayoral candidate Christopher Struben firmly believes “the tides are turning.”
"Woodbridge is similar to Turner’s new district because, like there, for every registered Republican, there are three Democrats," he said.
With November township elections less than six weeks away, the Republican candidates for mayor and town council argue that it is time for a change in Woodbridge.
Struben, along with his council at-large candidates Eduardo Ascolese, Walter Kaczmarek, Jr., and Debra Reinhart held a 'meet and greet' event at a wine tasting fundraiser at on Route 1 in Iselin last week.
The four candidates claim to be the first primary challengers to win the GOP line for election in the history of Woodbridge. They triumphed, in a , over Councilman Bob Luban and most of his council slate. However, one of Luban's council running mates, Susan Boros, attained a majority to make it onto the Republican line with the Struben slate for the November election.
Boros was not present at the Struben fundraiser.
Struben, a former municipal prosecutor who has a law practice in Woodbridge, criticized Mayor John McCormac, the Democratic incumbent.
"McCormac doesn't listen to the people," the Republican mayoral candidate said. "With rising taxes and fewer jobs, McCormac has done the opposite of what needs to be done in these tough economic times."
McCormac is running for reelection with at-large council members James Carroll, Gregg Ficarra, and Brenda Yori Velasco. Kyle Anderson, who was appointed to his at-large seat, is also running for a first time election, as is Michele Charmello, who was appointed to represent the third ward.
All are Democrats.
The Republican candidates say that McCormac and his staff do not try to help the community and rush through meetings without welcoming new ideas.
The mayor has not returned phone calls from Woodbridge Patch, seeking his reaction to his opponent's criticism.
“We have new and innovative ideas,” Reinhart countered. “We’re putting our names where our mouths are. The people thought we had a better vision to run this town.”
Giving back to the community is a key component of the Republican slate's platform, Struben said. As an example, they are pledging to waive their own eligibility for municipal pensions, if they are elected.
"Honesty and integrity are key components to being a successful mayor," Struben said.
The mayoral candidate also criticized one of the township's municipal court judges, Spencer Robbins, who was admonished by the Middlesex County Board of Elections when it was discovered he had been voting in Woodbridge for years, while legally residing in Chatham.
"After finding out in June that Municipal Judge Spencer Robbins voted illegally in Woodbridge, he should have been fired," Struben said. "But the mayor refused to fire him, and that is wrong."
Both McCormac and the council have said publically that they cannot legally do anything about Robbins' judgeship. The matter, they said, resides with a state judicial ethics panel in Trenton, which has not yet come to a decision about what action, if any, they will take.
Struben also took issue with Robbins' financial interest in a local bank.
"Any elected official in New Jersey cannot own a business that profits from members in the community; however, Robbins has an ownership stake in Allegiance Bank," he said.
The bank is right across the street from Town Hall where Robbins sits on the municipal bench. Robbins is listed on the bank's board of directors in their prospectus.
"It's a violation of the township's Conflict of Interest Ordinance because the bank maintains township and Board of Education accounts in excess of $16 million," Struben said.
Robbins has not returned phone calls for reaction to Stuben's criticism.
The Republican slate also said they'd would like to change the Board of Education from an elected body to an appointed one.
“It gives us responsibility to appoint the school board,” Ascolese said. “We’re held accountable. We want full responsibility for taxpayers’ money.”
They also have the township's Fire Departments on their agenda. Instead of having nine fire chiefs for nine firehouses, it should be consolidate into one chief position, Struben said, and there should be more paid firefighters.
Nora Brower, a resident of Woodbridge, is a volunteer for the Republican candidates. She said taxes are a huge concern and continue to increase while the mayor continues to spend money.
"With the economy declining, people losing jobs and many people in debt, [the township] need a new regime," she said.