BRIDGEWATER – New Jersey Democrats are fighting one another but not killing one another, their backroom pushing and shoving not showing up – at least a day before Election Day 2019 – as anything other than the romp of a party on continuing playground assignment, as long as Donald Trump serves as president. But the Republicans, too, are in their own quiet little fistfights. Take a look at Hamilton and Burlington. And Bridgewater.
This is the town that experienced a brutal Republican Primary, where Councilman Matt Moench vanquished incumbent Mayor Dan Hayes, who hardly looks a like a gung ho Moench guy ahead of tomorrow’s election. There’s the added encumbrance for Moench of sheriff’s candidate Tim Pino, who affiliated with his local fellow Republican in the primary, then endorsed Democrat Darrin Russo in the countywide general. Somerset County GOP Chairman Al Gaburo and State Party Chairman Doug Steinhardt (who campaigned this morning with Moench) are also not on the friendliest terms.
Moench’s opponent, Democrat Jeffrey Brookner, argues that Republicans, after all, got the town into an overdeveloped mess, but Moench disagrees. “The fact of the matter is Dan Hayes got us into this mess,” said the Republican candidate, who says his new opponent is late to the dance on planning board issues, and tied to a party that tilts to far to the left.
Moench is confident that Governor Phil Murphy’s presence in his hometown does not help Brookner, who yesterday appeared at a canvassing rally with the governor.
“I hope the governor comes back as often as possible,” he said.
InsiderNJ spoke with Moench today at a local senior center, where the candidate for mayor appeared with Steinhardt.
Brooker (pictured above, center, with Somerset Freeholder candidate Melonie Marano, right) objected to much of the core of Moench’s charaterization of his record.
“First of all,” I was at a cavassing event yesterday and it was the fiirst time i ever met him [the governor],” the Democrat said. “People can be in the same party, disagree, and still have civil discussion.”
Brookner also countered Moench’s assertion that he’s a newcomer to planning board issues.
“I’ve been at every Planning Board meeting on the Center of Excellence project since the beginning of the year,” Brookner told InsiderNJ. “Secondly, as an attorney I have been involved in development projects, arguing before planning boards, appelate courts and trial courts. Third, I was involved in the opposition of the development of the Wempel property. I opposed the construction of 18 homes in a flood-sensitive area. I helped derail the project on land the township later bought for open space. That would not have been possible without my opposition. I have a long history of working on planning board issues, and Mr. Moench’s suggestion that I don’t is simply inaccurate.”
For the record, Pino said in a statement, “My campaign supporters firmly stand with my primary running mate Matthew Moench as the next Bridgewater Mayor, however the same Trenton special interests pushing overdevelopment in Bridgewater, especially the Center Of Excellence project, are also supporting Bill Parenti”s sheriff campaign , so for this one county race I’m proud to stand with Darrin Russo , who the sheriff office police union (my union) has openly endorsed.”