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EDISON – Two Democratic councilmen were denied the endorsement of their own party Thursday night in favor of a school board member and a woman who, if elected, will be the first African-American to serve on the governing body.
Four seats are up this year and all four incumbents sought the party endorsement at a well-attended township Democratic committee meeting at the Pines catering hall. All council members are Democrats.
Councilmen Joe Coyle and Ajay Patil were endorsed, but fellow incumbents Mike Lombardi and Len Sendelsky were denied party backing.
Instead the committee endorsed Richard Brescher, who serves on the school board, and Joyce Ship-Freeman.
The final numbers for the winners were Coyle, 97 votes, Patil, 85, Brescher, 80 and Ship-Freeman, 72. Incumbent Lombardi got 62 votes and Sendelsky 36. There were 12 candidates in all.
The upshot of the evening is that the four winners will seek council seats as the endorsed candidates of the Edison Democratic Committee in the June primary. It’s possible that some of those who lost tonight will also run in the primary.
All the candidates gave three-minute speeches. The incumbents said the council is doing a good job providing services to residents in this sprawling township.
“In me, you have, and always will have, an ally.” Patil told the crowd.
Brescher stressed his school board experience, especially his acumen in putting together a sensible budget and saving tax money.
Ship-Freeman would not only be the first African-American on the council, she would be the only woman. She said she worries about seniors being taxed out of town and that the council needs a “women’s perspective,” Shariq Ahmad, the party chair, acknowledged the crowded field, but talked about unity.
“When we work together, people in this room are unstoppable,” he said with pride, adding that the township last fall gave large majorities to Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep Frank Pallone.
In what seemed like an example of textbook democracy, the votes were counted in public. As each paper ballot was read, volunteers tallied up the votes on a display board. This allowed people to see a running tally literally as it developed.
The candidates’ speeches produced an interesting, if not offbeat, dynamic. Different candidates quoted four historical figures – Abe Lincoln, Mother Teresa, Gandhi and Henry Ford.
Try to find a connection among that quartet.