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Ocean Township Deputy Mayor Margie Donlon. (Photo: Margie Donlon).

Democratic Assembly challenger will also seek re-election to municipal office

Margie Donlon willing to campaign for re-election to get six more months to complete some of her projects

By David Wildstein, February 27 2023 4:53 pm

A candidate for the New Jersey State Assembly in one of the state’s most competitive districts is playing it safe and seeking re-election as an Ocean Township councilwoman at the same time.

Deputy Mayor Margie Donlon announced today that she would run for a second term in the May non-partisan municipal election, one month before she seeks the Democratic nomination to challenge two incumbent assemblywomen in Monmouth County’s 11th district.

That could signal that she’s less than confident in her chances to flip an Assembly seat and wants to keep her safety net.  While there is no legal impediment to running for both offices, she must choose which job she wants if she wins both elections.

“Ultimately, I can do more for Ocean Township residents if elected to the New Jersey State Assembly in November,” said Donlon.  “I plan on winning the seat, but that is in November, and we need to finish these 2023 community projects.”

But Tom Szymanski, the executive director of the New Jersey Republican State Committee, thinks that Donlon, at best, is “hedging her bets and treating her constituents as a backup plan because she clearly isn’t confident in winning an Assembly seat this November.”

“At worst, she is using her constituents as a stepping stone for her own personal political ambitions,” Szymanski, an 11th district resident.  “She is proceeding on the assumption that she will only serve six months out of a four-year term.”

Three weeks ago, Monmouth County Democrats awarded their organization line to Donlon and Luanne Peterpaul, a municipal court judge.  They want to take on freshmen Marilyn Piperno (R-Colts Neck) and Kim Eulner (R-Shrewsbury).  The 11th is the only district in the state that split their votes between a senator from one party and Assemblymembers from the other party in the 2021 election.

“I want to continue to serve, and I think that the residents of Ocean Township also want me to serve,” she said.  “ I have some important projects that I am currently working on in town and want to see through their completion,  including an important dredging project to improve Deal Lake Watershed and the environment, improving our tree preservation and management, and advocating for a responsible and sustainable deer management project in Ocean Township.”

Donlon maintains that “continuity on these projects is very important to me and our residents” and said an extra six months in local government will help her “see them to completion.”

If Donlon wins re-election in May, takes office in July, and then wins the Assembly seat, she would need to resign six months into a four-year term to join the legislature.   That would mean the other four winners of the May 2023 election would appoint her replacement, who would remain in office until the results of a November 2024 special election were certified.

“When elected to Assembly, whoever will be selected to fill my seat on council will ultimately face the voters in the general election in November 2024 which poses no extra burden to taxpayers,” she said.

Donlon could also use the Ocean Township race to skate past campaign contribution limits.   Donors could contribute $2,600 to her municipal re-election campaign and another $5,200 to her primary and general election campaigns for the Assembly seat.

But she said she would only accept contributions from donors at $5,200.

“I’m not interested in any back door ways to raise money,” Donlon told the New Jersey Globe.  “My commitment would be not to accept contributions from the same donors for both races.”

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