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GOP Looks to Youth
Dems Look Outside Party

Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times

Last year’s upset by Democrats in November’s general election has been felt in both political parties this year. While the Republicans are looking to regroup, the Democrats hope to gain a majority on the council for the first in the town’s history, although they admit party-line votes are not the norm at the municipal level of government.

The Republicans will field younger candidates with varied backgrounds in an attempt to erase the "old guard" label put on them in the past, while the Democrats looked this year for persons not necessarily active within the local party. The Democrats hold four seats on the governing body, including the Mayor’s office, for the first time in their history.

Heading the Republican slate this year will be first term council members Matthew P. Albano of East Broad Street, and Neil F. Sullivan, Jr, of Sycamore Street, representing the Second and Third Wards, respectively.

They will be joined this year by Gregory C. McDermott of Lawrence Avenue, in the First Ward, the son of Union County Republican Party Chairman and former State Senator, Frank X. McDermott, and Christian A. Sepe, an attorney, who is running for the Fourth Ward seat.

Mr. McDermott was named in place of Norman N. Greco, last year’s Republican Mayoral contender, who decided not to seek a fourth term. Council terms run for two years.

Mr. McDermott will face Marc A. McCabe of Clark Street, an Assistant Vice President with Acordia Northeast in Morristown, a firm which specializes in insurance brokerage and risk management counseling. Mr. McDermott, a member of the Union County Improvement Authority, is a Vice President of a commercial printing business.

Kenneth Rotter of Green Place will vie for Mr. Sullivan’s seat. The candidate is a member of the Westfield Democratic Town Committee and has been active in the recruitment of young Democrats in the political process, according to Fourth Ward Councilman and Town Democratic Committee Chairman Lawrence A. Goldman.

Mr. Sullivan joined the council early in 1995 upon the resignation of Kenneth N. MacRitchie. He was elected to a two-year term that November after being unchallenged in the election.

He headed the Laws and Rules Committee last year and is in his third year as the Council Liaison on the Planning Board. He is a Senior Vice President with a major financial services firm.

His opponent, who has lived in town two years, was a full-time member of the Congressional Campaign of Larry Lerner last year. Mr. Lerner was defeated by veteran Congressman Bob Franks.

The Democrats did not run anyone in the Second Ward, which is considered to be a stronghold for the Republicans. Mr. Albano was unopposed in 1995 when he first ran for the council. He took the seat of Margaret C. Sur who decided not to seek reelection after several terms on the governing body.

Councilman Albano currently heads the Building and Town Property Committee.

Donnell Carr of Hort Street rounds out the Democratic ticket in the Fourth Ward. He was recently appointed to the council by his party to fill the vacancy left when veteran Councilman James Hely resigned in March.

Mr. Carr, an electrical engineer, is a 15-year resident who has been long active in community affairs. He founded Concerned African-American Parents (CAAP). He ran two unsuccessful bids for the local Board of Education and has degrees from Oxford and Rutgers Universities.

Both Mr. Carr and Mr. McCabe were not active in the local Democratic Party, but Mr. Goldman said he feels both are strong candidates as is Mr. Rotter, who is active in the party.

In putting together the Republican slate, the party was looking for both youth and a nice rounded ticket, in terms of their employment and business backgrounds. Robert W. Cockren, Chairman of the Westfield Republican Town Council, noted that the ticket includes a businessman (Mr. McDermott), an attorney (Mr. Albano), a Certified Public Accountant (Mr. Sepe, who just passed the certification), and a banker (Mr. Sullivan).

"I think we are putting forth a very strong ticket," said Mr. Cockren.

He said that Mr. McDermott and Mr. Sepe would bring a "blend of experience" along with "fresh ideas" to the council, should they be elected. He said Councilmen Albano and Sullivan have gained the respect of their peers on the governing body.

While Mr. Sepe is active on the committee, Mr. Cockren explained, Mr. McDermott has been more involved in the county politics. Mr. Sepe is an officer in the Westfield Republican Club, a separate group from the town committee which chooses candidate slates.

The party Chairman said Mr. McDermott’s understanding of the financial workings of government as a member of the improvement authority would be an "asset" to the council.

He also pointed to the candidate’s family’s long-time involvement in government. Frank McDermott is an official with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

The improvement authority works to save money for local municipalities through joint purchasing arrangements such as the purchase of police cars and equipment.

On the other hand Mr. Goldman, who was elected in last year’s surprising sweep by the Democrats, said he was happy with the ticket put forward by the party this year.

"I would characterize the three candidates as three energetic personable individuals who I anticipate will be well-received by the residents of their respective wards during the fall campaign," said Mr. Goldman.

He noted that a candidate could still be selected to challenge Mr. Albano during the write-in process in the June Primary.

Just as the Presidential race headed last year’s election season, the Governor’s race will top this November’s campaigns. Voters will also choose three members of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, and their State Assembly and Senate representatives, as well.

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TheWestfield Leader.
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