Turnout in Collingswood appears to be high in the hours before polls close on a race that could preview a larger battle between South Jersey’s organization Democrats and progressive insurgents seeking to wrest control of the party.
The race for Commission in the Camden County borough of about 14,000 will see Mayor Jim Maley and Commissioner Rob Lewandowski defend their seats from Democratic Municipal Chairwoman Kate Delaney and her running mates, county committeeman Bill Johnson and local education advocate Jen Rossi.
The incumbents are joined by Morgan Robinson, who is seeking the seat held by Commissioner Joan Leonard. Leonard is not running for another term.
The progressives, led by Delaney, have honed their campaign’s focus to the Parkview Apartments, a series of four high-rise buildings that house many of the borough’s low-income residents.
The mayoral candidate was canvassing there Tuesday with New Jersey Working Families State Director Sue Altman, a leading force among progressives opposed to South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross.
“I feel like it’s going to be a close election, but we feel like there’s a chance. We’re trying to mobilize voters who have not really been acknowledged,” Delaney said. “Parkview, they had issues with not having heat on in the winter, so if we get them to show up, they’re our voters.”
The complex houses roughly 1,000 registered voters, she said. That could be a potent voting bloc in a town where local election challenges are rare and turnout tends to be low.
But Maley, a 32-year incumbent and 24-year mayor, didn’t believe the complex’s residents would break cleanly for the progressives.
“Don’t count us out that we don’t win Parkview,” he said. “Don’t confuse the noise with the work that we’ve been doing. Parkview’s been a focus of mine for the last 25 years. We’ve done major league things at Parkview. It’s had a rough last couple years with the latest owner, but even that new owner is beginning to get the drill of the stuff that he’s got to do.”
Both teams have canvassers out on the streets — or in the Parkview towers — and that presence may be responsible for a noticeable bump in turnout.
A poll worker at the borough’s senior center, which serves as a polling place for five of the town’s 11 districts, said turnout had been brisk through the early afternoon. More than 120 voters had cast ballots in her district alone by 4 p.m.
Another 1,386 voters had returned mail-in ballots as of Monday night. It’s not clear who those ballots favor — though it is worth noting Camden Democrats are famed for their prowess at turning out mail-in votes — but the figures mean turnout will be at least double what it was four years ago, when Maley and his running mates faced no opposition.
Maley didn’t see that as a sign of a progressive swell.
“We’ve been confident through it all,” he said from a parklet on Haddon Avenue, where a number of residents stopped to say hello. “Find me another place in Camden County, in South Jersey, that’s had the renaissance that Collingswood’s had. You talk to anybody now and they’ll tell you.”
The progressives weren’t ready to cede much ground. They intend to keep knocking on doors until polls close.
“We’re running on coffee and optimism,” Altman said.