Livingston Republicans still face some open wounds from last year’s local campaign as they search for a candidate to run in a November special election for a fourteen-month unexpired term on the township council.
GOP municipal chairman Lee Holtzman told the New Jersey Globe that he is actively recruiting candidates and expects to hold a screening committee meeting during the next few weeks.
The Democratic candidate is expected to be councilman Michael Vieira, who took office last Monday to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Michael Silverman.
Three Democratic incumbents were re-elected in 2018 by a wide margin, with Shawn Klein (8,219), Edward Meinhardt (8,135) and Rudy Fernandez (8,111) defeating Republicans Brandon Minde (5,127) and Debbie Burack (3,992). Democrats won all 26 voting districts in the township.
Minde, a former assistant counsel to Gov. Chris Christie, says he’s not sure he will run again.
“I have not decided, to be truthful with you,” Minde said. “The filing deadline is the only timetable.”
Burack said she has no plans to run again this year.
“I would not run in the special, but maybe in 2020,” Burack said. “People would like to give Mike Vieira a chance.”
But Burack made it clear that if the Republicans nominate Minde, her former running mate, she will vote for Vieira.
“Brandon is a fraud. I’ll do whatever I have to do to get votes against him. I would never support him,” Burack told the Globe.
The relationship between Minde and Burack deteriorated sometime after the Republican primary and the two ran separate campaigns.
Minde raised $25,411. He received no contributions over $300 from his former Christie administration colleagues.
Burack filed a statement with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission reporting that she did not intend to spend more than $5,100 on her campaign.
The Democrats raised $40,281.
Livingston has never held a special election before. The other two vacancies since the township changed its form of government in 1956, occurred in election years.
The winner of the November 2019 special election will have to run again in 2020 if they want to extend their time on the council.
Democrats now have a 5-0 majority on the council and have had control for all but two years since 1975.
The last Republicans to serve on the Livingston Township Council lost their seats in 2014. Michael Rieber was defeated by 34 votes, while Deborah Shapiro, running for re-election as an independent, lost by 2,446 votes.
In 2018, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez won 59% of the vote in Livingston, while Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) took 67% and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo won 69%.
Vieira was appointed by the local Democratic organization after a vote by the county committee.
The county committee had submitted three names to the council — Viera, Laurie Kahn and Scott Goldman — but the election was shifted back to the local party organization when the governing body declined to pick one of the three.
The filing deadline is 4 PM on April 1.