There was a time when Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider and Rep. Frank Pallone got along, but that was more than 25 years ago. The two were once like brothers, but now Pallone’s brother is running against Schneider in a race that looks too close to call.
Pallone was a 30-year-old attorney when started his political career in Long Branch when he was elected to the city council in 1982. The following year, he won a State Senate seat in an upset victory against Republican incumbent Brian Kennedy.
After he was elected to Congress in 1988, he wanted Schneider to take his council seat. Mayor Philip Huhn broke a tie by appointing Bob Wainright to the seat. Pallone took the race so seriously that he pushed then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Florio to come to Long Branch and endorse Schneider. Schneider beat Wainright in a 1989 special for Pallone’s unexpired term.
When Huhn decided not to run for re-election in 1990, Schneider was elected mayor. John Pallone, Frank’s younger brother, was elected councilman in the Schneider ticket.
The Pallone/Schneider alliance deteriorated over the next four years, some say because John Pallone wanted to do things – like buy a fire truck – and Schneider refused to cooperate. The blood became so bad that in John Pallone ran against the mayor in 1994.
Schneider beat Pallone by 530 votes, 3,226 to 2,606, with 475 votes going to a third candidate, Councilman Michael Palughi.
John Pallone returned to the city council in 2010, narrowly beating Schneider-backed candidate Al Menckin by about ten votes. He was re-elected in 2014.
After 28 years as mayor, Schneider is in trouble. He’s under fire for his relationships with developers, and for his refusal to back project labor agreements that have caused several unions to jump into the fray in support of Pallone. Even though the race is technically non-partisan, Long Branch is predominately Democratic, and Schneider is on the defensive after endorsing Republicans like Chris Christie and Jennifer Beck.
Also on the ballot is 84-year-old school board member Avery Grant, who could siphon votes away from Pallone.
With a little less than two weeks to go, this race is too close to call.