By MARTA ESQUÍROZ For The Leader/Times
CRANFORD — The Cranford Democratic Committee has announced Kathleen Rappa as its candidate for the township committee, setting up a Primary Election contest between Ms. Rappa and incumbent Thomas Hannen, Jr., the current commissioner of engineering and public works.
Commissioner Hannen said he views Ms. Rappa’s candidacy as “unfortunate” and claimed he did not get the party line nomination because his “own set of principles and thoughts don’t get along with current members of the township committee.
“I supported many things and voted yes, for example, on development. But I am not afraid to say no, and I am not going to go along for the sake of party unity,” he remarked.
Mr. Hannen, who has served three terms on the township committee, including three as mayor, believes that it is crucial to maintain a “diversity of opinion” in order to represent “both sides.”
“That’s when you get the best outcome on policy, by having a good, lively discussion,” he said.
Commissioner Hannen said that since the election of the new township committee members — Deputy Mayor Andrews and Mr. Gareis — “things are getting worse,” as he “feels more push to accept the agenda of the mayor and the party.”
Over the last months, Mr. Hannen has voted against some of his party’s agenda, such as the Anti-Nepotism ordinance, placing him on the same side as the Republican member of the committee, Mary O’Connor.
Mr. Hannen said that he “needs to be able to articulate his feelings and thoughts on the way the community should be” because for him, “that’s how you engage the citizens.”
Looking forward to the upcoming election, Mr. Hannen agreed that he has to “work much harder” to get reelected as he runs without the party line.
“Many friends of mine suggested to me that I should run as an independent. But I’ve been a lifelong Democrat, and my home is in the Democratic Party,” Mr. Hannen said, while he hopes “the voters see my values and leadership for the town.”
Ms. Rappa, a corporate auditor for six years and a real estate professional, said she is “excited about this election” and “very invested in the town’s future.
“I am committed to serving Cranford, and I have a professional background that could bring a unique set of skills to the township,” she said.
Ms. Rappa has been getting more involved with the township she moved to eight years ago. By becoming the co-president of the Newcomers Club, a member of the Cranford Public Library Board of Trustees and a member of the planning board, she has had the opportunity to get acquainted with Cranford itself.
Ms. Rappa highlighted the importance of “public service” as she applauded the work of the new members of the local government, Jason Gareis and Deputy Mayor Brian Andrews. She also recognized the “excellent job” performance of Mayor Kathleen Miller Prunty, who has already expressed her support for the new candidate in a Facebook post.
“Kate has the temperament of a leader. She is smart, open-minded, innovative and takes a very thoughtful approach to decision making … I am confident that Kate will be a great asset to the Cranford government,” Mayor Miller Prunty said in her statement.
“I would be so excited to work with them (the governing body) and [it would be] an honor to serve,” Ms. Rappa stated.
Ms. Rappa defined herself as a “financial person” who always brings “a level of finance to everything.”
“I am a number-strict person, especially as we balance and recover from the effects of the pandemic. I look at every decision as to how it could impact the taxpayers because it is essential,” Ms. Rappa remarked.