It looks like Carol “The Bear” Murphy is going to win her fight with Republican Mount Laurel Mayor Kurt Folcher, who is trying to move next year’s November partisan local election to a May non-partisan race to avoid being on the ballot with President Donald Trump.
The council passed Folcher’s bid for a November 2019 referendum to change the form of government on Monday night by a 3-2 vote along party lines.
For a short time it looked like Folcher might have bested The Bear — that’s what the Burlington County Times called the freshman Democratic assemblywoman — after the State Senate rescinded a vote to change the law to require a supermajority (four votes).
The Assembly passed Murphy’s bill last week — so did the Senate, which then inexplicably rescinded that vote when someone realized it could conflict with a measure to change Atlantic City’s election. State Sen. Troy Singleton (D-Delran), the Senate sponsor, voted to rescind even though he wasn’t in the building for that vote. The Secretary of the Senate’s office has been unable to answer how that happened.
Now the Senate is prepared to vote again this week. Since the Mount Laurel ordinance doesn’t take effect for twenty days, The Bear still has plenty of time to win her race against the clock with the Mount Laurel Republicans.
The Bear needs Gov. Phil Murphy, who doesn’t necessarily fight with South Jersey Democrats on everything, to sign the bill before the Mount Laurel Council votes on Monday night. The Bear and the Governor are not related.
The bill also changes the number of signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot from 10% to 25%.
The local controversy was first reported by the Burlington County Times.
In the 2016 general election, 73% of Mount Laurel voters turned out to vote. In two other Burlington municipalities that held May non-partisan election, turnout was around 17%.
Last month in North Bergen, where more than $1 million was spent between the two slates in a non-partisan municipal election, turnout was at 34%.
Folcher’s move comes at a time when many municipalities with non-partisan local elections have moved to November in a bid to increase voter turnout.