Sea Bright Democrats Expect A Primary Fight Over Council Nominations
Councilman Marc Leckstein: Gopal with overrule local chairman and award him the party line in the primary
Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long is poised to lead the tiny coastal borough’s recovery from Superstorm Sandy for another four years.
Long, an Independent, will file her nominating petitions this week, over two months before they are due for Independent candidates. Both the Democratic and Republican municipal chairs have said that they won’t field candidates against Long.
“I am hopeful the voters of Sea Bright will give me the opportunity to see through our rebuilding from Sandy, the recovery of our municipal finances and the economic revitalization of our downtown,” Long said in a prepared statement, “I want to make sure we incorporate lessons learned from Sandy to improve our future resilience, and that we continue to engage and empower Sea Bright residents to be an active part that process.
“Over the last three and half years, we have seen that when we roll up our sleeves and work together, we succeed. If we keep bringing that spirit to the tasks at hand, I know Sea Bright’s potential can finally be realized. I am honored that the Democrat and Republican party organizations are not opposing my re-election bid, and am very very grateful. I look forward to working with them all to keep Sea Bright moving forward.”
Elected mayor as a Democrat in 2011 after serving as a councilwoman for eight years, Long broke with the Democratic Party in February in 2014, one year after she endorsed Governor Chris Christie for reelection. Monmouth Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal promised political retribution against Long following her endorsement of Christie, prompting the Governor to say that the then 27 year old Gopal “represents the politics of yesterday.”
The mayor has steadfastly refused to divulge her reasons for leaving the Democratic Party, saying that to do so would defeat the purpose of the move. A Sea Bright insider told MMM at the time that something happened within the Monmouth Democratic Party that Long considered personally hurtful.
Sea Bright Democratic Chairman Martin Arasin told MMM that his party will support Long’s reelection this year. “Dina has done a good job. Sea Bright is fortunate that she is willing to continue her service.” Republican Chairwoman Marianne McKenzie Morse said that a challenge to Long would require a negative campaign that would be inauthentic and would be bad for the Borough. “We’re a very small town with big problems,” McKenzie Morse said,”we’re more about good government and recovering from Sandy than we are about partisanship.”
In addition to the mayor’s office, Sea Bright residents will elect two council members this fall. Incumbent Republican Jack Keeler, who has served on the council since 1986, will seek another term with the backing of the GOP. McKenzie Morse said she would announce a second council candidate this week before the March 30 deadline for candidates to file their petitions to be on the ballot for the June 2 primary.
Arasin said the incumbent Democratic Councilman Marc Leckstein has lost the support of the Sea Bright Democrats. The Sea Bright Democratic Committee will put up two new candidates in the June primary. Arasin said that he expects Leckstein to compete “off the line” in the primary. The rift between Leckstein and the local Democrats stems from the councilman’s support of the demolition of Sea Bright’s library and his support of rehiring the borough’s engineering firm, T & M Associates, without first putting the services out to bid.
Leckstein said that he has been assured by Gopal that he will have the Democratic line in primary and that Arasin “does not know what he is talking about.” Leckstein that Arasin was “incorrect” about the Borough’s engineering contract not going out to bid.