By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI
The Nov. 6 election in Asbury Park features only three candidates, the least number anyone can recall in the last 50 years.
Mayor John Moor is running unopposed for his second term as mayor. City Councilman Jesse Kendle is seeking his second term on the council and is being challenged by Felicia Simmons, a former Board of Education member.
Moor served as a council member before running for mayor when the form of government was changed in 2014. Previously the council members chose a mayor from the five elected. Now the voters elect a mayor.
All of the terms for this year’s election are four years.
Moor said although he is running opposed for the mayoral seat, he believes his two opponents are the ballot questions.
“The two ballot questions are basically to recall me and have another election in 2019. But I’m going to work hard for the 10 years of stability we were promised with the change of government in 2014 that became effective in 2015,” he said.
He said he, Jesse and the entire council will be campaigning hard to let residents know that due to a quirk in the law, which allowed the questions to be put on the ballot, the entire council could, in effect, be thrown out, or “recalled,” in a new election next year.
“I’m appreciative that I’m unopposed but my opposition comes from the two ballot questions,” he said. “We will not be complacent. We will be out campaigning.”
Voters will be asked to decide if they want to see a ward system with the city divided into three wards. A representative/ council member would be elected from each of the three wards and one council member would be elected at large. The mayor would run separately.
A second question, if passed, would make the City Council elections partisan with candidates declaring and running as a representative of a specific party. The city elections have always been non-partisan.
Moor also said the possibility of having to hold another election next year makes investing in city projects uncertain.
“The promise of stability brings in investors. If the ballot questions are passed investors will stay away because we could all be voted out next year,” he said.
Simmons, a former school board member, was defeated in the April 2017 board election. She could not be reached for comment for this story.
As an organizer of the Committee for a More Equitable Asbury Park, Simmons was instrumental in having the two ballot questions placed on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The group secured 409 certified signatures.
According to City Clerk Cindy Dye if the ward vote is approved an election would have to be held in November of 2019 to elect all five government seats.
If the partisan election vote is approved, but not the ward system vote, the mayor and council would not have to run until Nov. 2020 with a primary election in June of 2020.
Councilman Kendle said he hopes city residents understand that if they vote yes for the ballot questions there will be another election next year.
He said many people have stopped by his house asking about the questions and when the implications were explained to them they told him they would vote no.
“I think it would be a miscarriage of justice to the people of Asbury Park. And the money involved (to hold another election so soon),” he said.
Referencing the gains the city has made in recent years and the awards and accolades it has received Kendle said, “I think we have sold ourselves to the people in Asbury Park. The five of us have really been working hard. We made a commitment to do that.”
Kendle said he believes the mayor and council are very approachable.
“We have a government that is working, we’re not perfect, but people can talk to our council,” he said. “If we weren’t
Former City Clerk, Steven Kay, who worked for the city for 40 years said he did not recall any elections that were unopposed.
He also said the change in government affects the election process.
“The mayor is running separately, that’s not how it used to be,” he said. “I’ve never seen it this low, the number of candidates running.”
Kay retired from the city four years ago.