When last we heard of Republicans in Asbury Park, Municipal GOP Chairwoman Louis Murray was making national news by calling for a ban of beachwear on the boardwalk. That didn’t go the way Murray planned.
By some numbers, Asbury Park looks like a waste of time for Republicans. Only 464 of the city’s registered 7,404 voters are Republicans. 2,723 are Democrats and 4,209 are Unaffiliated, according to Wikipedia.
By other numbers, no one in New Jersey should ignore Asbury Park. New Jersey taxpayers fund the city’s schools and municipal government. Trenton sent $57.6 million to Asbury Park for its schools in 2011-2012 and $9.5 million for its current municipal budget.
Asbury Park has an unusual form of municipal government and elections. The entire governing body is elected in non-partisan elections every four years. All candidates appear on in the same ballot column. The top five vote getters are elected. The mayor and deputy mayor are selected. The mayor has no executive authority. The city manager, an employee hired by the elected officials, runs the city.
The city will elect an new governing body on May 14. Mayor Ed Johnson has announced he’s not running.
The Asbury Park Sun reports that a ticket lead by former Councilman Jim Keady has formed. Former school board member Remond Palmer, Nora Hyland, a Rutgers professor, Danny Harris, a Newark school board athletic director and Duane Small, a general contractor, comprise the rest of the Uniting Asbury ticket.
The only incumbent yet to announce a candidacy for reelection is Councilwoman Sue Henderson.
Monmouth Democratic Executive Director Giuseppe “Joe” Grillo is an announced candidate. Grillo scored a nice write up on NJ.com. If he keeps getting free media like that, he will be a formidable candidate.
One incumbent, Councilman Kevin Sanders, a former mayor, is a Republican, according to the Monmouth GOP website. I wonder if Sanders knows that. He ran last time on the ticket with Henderson, Johnson and the rest of the current council.
There are other numbers that behoove the GOP to pay attention to and get involved in Asbury Park. 3 and 11. As in the three legislative seats held by Republican women in the 11th district.
In order for the GOP to be a positive force in Asbury Park, the party needs to diversify. And diversify it should.
Thomas Smith, Asbury Park’s mayor from 1989-1993, was the only African American Republican in the State Legislature from 1992 until his death in 2002. Smith served on the council in the 1985-1989 term and was the city’s police chief from 1968-1979.
The NJ GOP has not had an African American in the legislature since Smith’s death. Other than Senator Kevin O’Toole, an Asian American from Essex County, all Republicans in the legislature are white.
That the GOP needs to diversity, nationally and in New Jersey, if it wants to be relevant in the future is undeniable. In order for that to happen, GOP leadership needs to look beyond the next election and think longer term. Asbury Park would be a good place to start. This year would be a good year to start. If Kevin Sanders is really a Republican and if he wants to continue his public service, he might be a good person to start with.
UPDATE: MMM has learned that Sanders left the Republican Party and
joined the Democrats became an Independent last July. Evidently the GOP did not notice, as Sanders is still listed as a Republican Councilman on the Monmouth GOP website.