Burlington County’s Mount Laurel Township has been in Republican control for just about forever. But in 2018, two Democrats – the youngest ever to serve on the council and the first African American to serve on the council, upset the established Republicans.
In 2020, there is one seat up for election on the five-member council. So if the Democrats can capture that seat, they will control the council for the first time in decades. This presents two problems for the current GOP majority.
First, since the 2016 election, township Democrats have become energized, both within and outside the party establishment. Grassroots organizations like Action Together have dominated township activism. And the new Democratic Municipal Chair is a political superstar – Michael Muller – whose day job is to get Democrats elected to the State Assembly. His campaign and polling expertise helped in getting the two Democrats on the council. And it doesn’t hurt that Muller’s spouse, Democratic Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, has been working relentlessly to address some of Mount Laurel’s infrastructure issues in Trenton.
The other problem that faces the Republicans is that in 2020, their man Donald Trump will be at the top of the ticket. While there are some
It’s clear that the GOP council’s path to winning the 2020 seat is to suppress the vote and distance themselves from Trump. So they are floating the idea of moving the municipal elections to May – decoupling them from the normal November election and incurring the cost of a special election. (Maybe they are trying to emulate Chris Christie who spent $12 million in 2013 to avoid being on a ballot underneath Cory Booker).
At last night’s town council meeting, several citizens spoke out against this voter suppression approach. The only one of the three Republicans to respond was Deputy Mayor Linda Bobo who, while not defending the May initiative, did not rule it out.
One of last night’s speakers was Dr. Peter Bilazarian, who compared the GOP voter suppression effort to the failed effort by Senate President Sweeney to gerrymander the state into safe Democratic districts. Here are Dr. Bilazarian’s remarks.
Featured photo: Democratic councilmen Stephen Steglik and Kareem Pritchett