Tonight is Halloween, the spookiest night of the year. While New Jersey’s children spend their evening trick or treating, Middletown’s Republicans are busy preparing themselves for the November 2nd election. The backlash against the Democratic Party’s policies has become increasingly severe over the past year, and discontentment with President Obama’s politics has remained consistently high.
This tumultuous sea of public anger means Democrats certainly have a lot more than ghosts and goblins to be scared of this week; a Republican comeback seems almost inevitable.
With Election Day a scant forty-eight hours away, Middletown voters must spend the next two days deliberating as to whom they will elect to the town’s council. Republican mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger, who the Northern Monmouth Chamber of Commerce named public servant of the year in 2009, is seeking another term on the township committee, this time alongside running-mate Kevin Settembrino.
Scharfenberger’s popularity pre-dates the recent surge of anti-Democratic Party sentiments, and he owes his success largely to his disdain of COAH housing, opposition to tax increases, and his criticism of the proposed “Middletown Town Center,” a planned outdoor mall that was defeated during an outcry of public disapproval, led largely in part by Scharfenberger.
But one could not reasonably say that Scharfenberger has spent his time in office simply opposing things, because the truth is quite the opposite: Scharfenberger’s name has become synonymous with low property taxes, efficient government, and constituent accessibility. He voluntarily forfeited his salary, viewing his work as a public service and not a means to generate personal finance.
“The focus of the next term will certainly be property taxes and the budget,” said Scharfenberger. “We have to get union contracts, contributions to health benefits, and things like that under control.”
While Scharfenberger’s running-mate, Kevin Settembrino, is not as familiar to most voters as the incumbent mayor, he is a very promising contender.
“[Kevin Settembrino] is an architect and an expert in ‘green’ building,” said Scharfenberger. “He brings a lot to the table. He’s got good experience, a really great command of the issues, and he loves the town.”
Scharfenberger has noticed that a great number of people who were previously apathetic to politics have become involved in his campaign. This sudden interest in the political climate is not limited to Middletown, and the congressional campaigns of Scott Sipprelle and Anna Little have also welcomed hordes of new supporters.
Sipprelle, who is challenging incumbent Congressman Rush Holt in New Jersey’s twelfth district, has received such powerful support, that for the first time in over a decade, it appears that Rush Holt could lose his seat in the House of Representatives.
Scharfenberger feels it is because these formerly uninterested voters have finally awakened and recognized the ineffectiveness of the career congressman.
“I think people are engaged who formerly weren’t,” said Scharfenberger. “They realize that this [election] is pivotal. It has gotten so extreme, because we have people like Frank Pallone and Rush Holt, whose ideas are so far out, that it is finally getting noticed by people who are usually not engaged.”
Scharfenberger also feels that Holt’s lack of personal engagement with his constituents has resulted in widespread disenchantment.
“Rush Holt is very detached from the people he is representing,” said Scharfenberger. “Its gotten to the point where, in many ways, he feels he knows what’s right for the people, even if they don’t get it. But people are becoming more informed these days…so the information that’s available to them is working against him, because people can see how bad things are [nationally].”
Come November 2nd, thousands of New Jersey voters will cast their ballots for whatever candidates they feel best represent their ideals. Voters must keep in mind, however, that while most candidates can only campaign on promises, Gerard P. Scharfenberger can boast an impressive track-record. He has kept Middletown a healthy and prosperous community, and that’s more important than any campaign slogan, lawn sign, or commercial could ever be.