Home>Campaigns>Portman wins in Red Bank alongside entire council slate

The Red Bank's Ready ticket: Nancy Facey-Blackwood, Kristina Bonatakis, Ben Forest, Mayor Billy Portman, Councilwoman Kate Triggiano, David Cassidy, and Laura Jannone. (Photo: Red Bank's Ready).

Portman wins in Red Bank alongside entire council slate

Incumbent mayor beats candidate aligned with former Dem municipal chair Ed Zipprich

By Joey Fox, May 09 2023 9:24 pm

Red Bank Mayor Billy Portman has won re-election to a full term in his borough’s first nonpartisan election, defeating hospital executive Tim Hogan; his council slate also swept all six seats on the borough council.

As of 9:10 p.m. and with all election districts reporting, Portman had 61% of the vote to Hogan’s 39%. His council slate, meanwhile, is combining for 56% of the vote in a 13-way race.

That means, after serving his first few months in office with a largely hostile borough council, Portman will now have a full team of allies in office. Councilwoman Kate Triggiano won re-election on Portman’s slate, and she’ll be joined on the council by newcomers Nancy Facey-Blackwood, Laura Jannone, Kristina Bonatakis, David Cassidy, and Ben Forest.

They defeated three incumbent councilmembers – Jacqueline Sturdivant, Michael Ballard, and John Jackson – as well as Sean Murphy, Linda Hill, and Erin Fleming, all of whom ran with Hogan. A thirteenth candidate, Suzanne Viscomi, ran separately from the two main slates, and in fact finished with more votes than several of Hogan’s running mates.

Two council incumbents, Ed Zipprich and Angela Mirandi, did not seek re-election.

Portman was first elected in November of last year after scoring an incredible 22-point off-the-line Democratic primary victory against Councilman Michael Ballard, marking the latest in a long series of internecine battles in Red Bank.

Many of those battles revolved around Zipprich, until recently the Democratic municipal chairman, who worked for years to get his allies elected to all levels of local government. In some cases, he was successful – such as on the borough council, where every current member except for Triggiano is a Zipprich ally – and in other cases, like Portman’s primary victory, he was not.

In addition to Portman’s win, last year also brought several other important changes to Red Bank politics. For one, Zipprich lost control of the Democratic municipal committee, with Triggiano ousting him as municipal chair. And for another, the borough’s residents voted to adopt a new charter that switched Red Bank to a nonpartisan form of government, forcing a new election to be held this year.

The sudden contest came with significant uncertainty: how would Red Bank voters, accustomed to voting in competitive Democratic primaries, react to a nonpartisan election? With all six council seats up at the same time rather than just two, the stakes were high.

From the beginning, Portman hit Hogan hard over his position at Riverview Medical Center, which has become a major focus of borough politics for its aggressive land purchasing. Hogan’s job, Portman said, presented an unavoidable conflict of interest; Hogan said it wouldn’t affect the way he ran the borough as mayor, but it was hard for him to separate himself from the hospital he led.

Portman’s victory was thus an expected outcome, though there was some speculation that some of his running mates might not get across the finish line with him. But with even his worst-performing running mate clearly winning – Bonatakis is at 1,022 votes, 210 more than her closest competitor – he’ll start his first full term in a good position. 

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