Control of the Mendham Township Committee is up for grabs in November where four candidates will compete for two open seats in former Gov. Chris Christie’s hometown.
Republicans hold a 4-1 majority and two GOP incumbents, Mayor Warren Gisser and councilman Richard Diegnan, are not seeking re-election.
Democrats have picked Ryan Guthrie, a 33-year-old financial advisor, and Melissa Saharko, 36, a librarian who worked at the National Archives and Smithsonian, as their candidates.
To replace Gisser and Diegnan, Republican have picked Jordan Orlins, 52, an investment fund manager, and Thomas Baio, 54, an architect.
Guthrie and Saharko are presenting themselves as young parents and newcomers to politics.
“I’ve devoted my career to helping people make good financial decisions and plan for the future,” Guthrie, who serves as vice chairman of the Zoning Board of Adjustment. “I will bring the same passion, skills, and professionalism to this office if I’m lucky enough to serve.”
While Guthrie grew up in Mendham, Saharko brings a different perspective: she grew up on a small farm in rural Texas and worked at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library. She serves on the township Historical Preservation Committee.
“We moved to Mendham in part because of the impressive reputation of the school system and the pastoral nature of the community,” said Saharko. “We have been impressed by the services offered by the school and the community’s engagement. Serving on the Historic Preservation Committee has taught me so much about Mendham’s rich history. That combination of fertile past and bright future inspire me to work to ensure Mendham remains a desirable place to live.”
Democrats won a council seat in 2017 when Amalia Duarte defeated incumbent Rick Blood by a 54%-46% margin.
Republicans maintained control in 2018 when incumbent Sarah Neibart (1,636) and Rick Monaghan (1,666) held back a challenge from Democrats Patricia O’Brien (1,479) and Brenda Grant (1,472).
Mendham Township was once a Republican stronghold, but their margins have shrunk considerably in recent years. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) carried the township with 52% of the vote; her predecessor, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, won 67% in 2016.
Two local residents are running for the Assembly this year: Democrat Lisa Bhimani, a physician who nearly unseated State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-Boonton) two years ago, and Republican Aura Dunn, a former district director for Frelinghuysen.