Posted by deciminyan for my town councilman, Stephen Steglik. Remember the name – he’s a rising star in Democratic politics. He founded the Burlington County Young Democrats and was elected to the Mount Laurel Town Council last year (as the youngest councilman in the history of the town) by an overwhelming majority in a traditionally Republican town.
When Kareem Pritchett and I won a seat on Mount Laurel’s Township council in 2018 we knew we would have healthy debates and differences with our Republican colleagues. Never would I have thought those disagreements would consist of whether or not we should change our form of government in order to suppress and disenfranchise voters in our town.
Mayor Kurt Folcher, Deputy Mayor Linda Bobo, and Councilman Irwin Edelson have dishonestly promoted an ordinance that would change our 2020 elections to a nonpartisan, special election in May as an effort to “rise above” the partisan politics of Washington. However, they understand that this change would result in low voter participation and give them the ability to hide from their party affiliation.
Hide is the emphasized and accurate word because while their names will not have “R” next to it, their campaigns will be financed by the Republican Party and their ideologies will still be aligned with President Trump and the Republican Party. The only difference? In a year that will be a literal referendum on the last four years, unsuspecting voters won’t know they align with President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Furthermore, they know statistically speaking, nonpartisan races see a stark drop-off in participation.
That is voter disenfranchisement which is a classless method to demonstrate one’s lack of courage and confidence in ability to lead and get elected.
It must be stated that this is also a microcosm of a much larger issue in which the political “old guard” feels as if they can dictate who can and should be able to serve in elected office. The same political “old guard” that believes they can dictate what a congressperson, senator, or even a councilperson should look like. To put it simply, our council colleagues do not think Councilman Pritchett and I belong there.
Unfortunately for them, they don’t get to make that decision. The voters do. Which is why they want to change the rules of the election.
For the record, Councilman Pritchett and I ran an incredible campaign in which our team knocked on over 8,000 doors and made over 5,000 phone calls. Our hard work, and an excellent voter turnout, resulted in a commanding win over our opponents in 2018. While we were humbled and excited to serve, we made no mention of our landslide victory at our reorganization meeting in January. Instead we spoke about the work to be done and how, regardless of party affiliations, we could be an example of what bipartisan government could look like. Clearly Councilman Pritchett and I were the only members of council dedicated to a bilateral, well-functioning council.
Lastly, there is nothing wrong with being concerned with one’s re-election chances. Though, I believe what you do with that concern defines your character as an elected official. We hope that our elected officials use that concern to become better stewards of our trust. We hope they use that concern to build better relationships with residents while using the desire to serve to campaign harder than any other candidate.
Unfortunately, there are some that will try to manipulate their chances, cut corners, and deceit their way into an election win. Apparently the latter is the strategy for the Mount Laurel Republican party and my colleagues on council.
Councilman Pritchett and I are asking that Mayor Folcher, Deputy Mayor Bobo, and councilman Edeslon leave our elections the way they are and go back to the real concerns facing our communities or risk having their legacy on council be tarnished indefinitely.