Charging down the trail in Burlington: the 3-2 control question



The word speaks for itself: a variation on the idea of “burly company,” which is not too far off when one considers the close-quarters judo tactics going on here in a competitive chin-to-chest battle for county control.

Right now, with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) trampling on Republican challenger Jeff Bell in most polls, and after Bergen County and the county executive’s contest, the Burlington County freeholder race continues to command the most behind-the-scenes attention.

With Gov. Chris Christie mostly out-of-state campaigning for Republican governors and his would-be successors in the Democratic Party on the prowl for theaters to register wins and stand victoriously on out-of-the-way stages, Democratic Party chairs in three counties competed hard for attention this cycle: Burlington, Somerset and Monmouth.

Of the three, most insiders see the best chance for a pickup in Burlington, where Dems have already laid the groundwork, and where a single victory with two seats in question would flip control of the board away from the GOP into the hands of the Democrats.

“It’s going to be a close election,” conceded Burlington County GOP Chairman Bill Layton. “We should win.”

Republicans right now trust in the dynamics of CD3 and what they say are their internal polling numbers showing their candidate, Tom MacArthur, wining by a sufficient margin in the Burlington County portion of the district to catapult the freeholder candidates back onto the board.

In an intra-party rundown with the Ocean portion of the district, BurlCo wants to at least deliver victory to MacArthur to avoid the irritating din of Ocean chest-thumping.

But Democratic sources say the GOP is getting ahead of itself with those predictions, and see the lopsided contest between Booker and Bell, coupled with the campaign trail absence of Christie and the hard home county race run by Freeholder Aimee Belgard in CD3 conspiring to spell trouble for Layton.

Backing incumbent Freeholder Bruce Garganio and his running mate, former Freeholder Mary Ann O’Brien, Republicans are fighting hard to stay in power: eight mail pieces and cable TV.

The mail chops directly at Tom Pullion and Mike Schmidt, the two Democratic candidates for freeholder.

The negative TV ad is non-stop.

“We don’t take prisoners,” said Layton, who said the pieces emphasize the Democrats’ records as council members, including 20 percent tax increases, fee increases.

“And the fact that they are funded by the North Jersey bosses,” the chairman added, a reference to Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s donations to the Democrats.

Democrats are up on television with a second ad this week, and Burlington County Democratic Chairman Joe Andl said his team will

BurlCo Democratic Chairman Joe Andl
BurlCo Democratic Chairman Joe Andl

push hard with mail down the final days of the campaign.

“I wish Bill good luck,” Andl told PolitickerNJ. “We are doing everything we can and more than we have in the past. It’s going to be our best spending year since 2010. We have great candidates and a great chance to win. Control is at stake. It’s 3-2. One seat flips and we get control.

“We have a great message,” the chairman added. “The message is to end the pay-to-play politics and no-bid contracts. A lot of money right now is going to outside law firms. There’s a lot that can change with Democratic control. Eleven and a half million was cut from the county college. That would change with Democrats in control.”

Christie has been absent from the trail here, Andl acknowledged.

“I have not seen him came down,” said the Democratic chairman. “He did a town hall in the summer but nothing recently.

“As for this line about Northern politicians funding our candidates – the Republicans took $43,000 from MacArthur, and he’s a northern politician,” Andl cracked, referring to MacArthur’s transplanted residency from Randolph in Morris County to run for the CD3 seat currently occupied by U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan (R-3) of Mount Laurel. Charging down the trail in Burlington: the 3-2 control question