Decision 2015: Low turnout, voter ambivalance at play in election

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KEYPORT — In many ways, the borough Republicans should have the momentum going into the General Election today, but in other ways they do not.

In head to head match-ups for elections last year, Republicans Harry Aumack and Warren Chamberlain came away with easy victories for mayor and the unexpired Borough Council term left by Clemente Toglia’s untimely death.

To take control of the Borough Council, Republicans need to win just one of the two seats up for grabs. That would give the borough GOP a 4-3 majority considering Mayor Harry Aumack’s tie-breaking vote.

Advantage Republicans.

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But, in the more nebulous vote in 2014 for full Borough Council terms — where voters could cast ballots for any two of four candidates — Democratic incumbent Joseph Sheridan easily won victory. Democrat Isaiah Cooper squeaked out with a much more narrow win — the difference between him and Gaylee Benedict was only five votes. Between Cooper and Jacqueline Kovacs, the difference was 12 votes.

A similar match-up is set for this year.

The Republicans have returned to the Benedict-Kovacs ticket. Democrats are running incumbents Sophia Lamberson and Matthew Goode.

Given that incumbents are more likely to win, and Benedict-Kovacs have already lost an election…

Advantage Democrats.

The borough GOP seems to have more official spending power, which should be an advantage, but as of Oct. 27 the Benedict-Kovacs campaign only spent $168.

The Republicans were left with about $2,400 from their campaign last year. The Democrats had to start from scratch. Again that should have been a GOP advantage.

The Benedict-Kovacs campaign was only able to raise $2,000 from just three sources: a $200 donation, a $1,400 donation from Robert Burlew and a $400 donation from Mayor Harry Aumack II.

However, Democrats raised $2,925 in donations less than $300, which means that donors names don’t need to be revealed. The Lamberson-Goode campaign has spent nearly all of that by Oct. 30. They had $557 left as of Oct. 30.

So, the Democrats were able to raise more money with smaller donations than the Republicans, and the Dems outspent the GOP, which is mostly visible in what seems to be their victory in the battle of the lawn signs.

And the Democrats just have more numbers: 1,189 registered Democrats to 900 registered Republicans and 2,289 unaffiliated voters.

By the numbers: Advantage Democrats.

However, turnout is expected to be low because there is no statewide or presidential elections. And a recent Rutgers Eagleton poll showed that three quarters of state residents had no idea that there was an election today.

At the Democrats campaign kick-off, the low turnout is the first item they spoke about and they spoke about it with concern.

Advantage Republicans.

But the choice today is more than money and lawn signs, it’s a choice between new and old Keyport.

Benedict and Kovacs have deep roots in the community, and Lamberson and Goode are relatively fresh faces in a town that boasts such a long memory.

Benedict and her husband, Roger, have run a photography portrait studio out of their home on Main Street for many years. She has served on the zoning and planning boards. They raised three children here.

Her running-mate, Jacqueline Kovacs, is a life-long resident and is the first woman to be an active member of the volunteer Keyport Fire Department.

Their opponents, for Keyport, are relative newcomers.  

Lamberson moved here in 1999, and has been an active member of the community since 2005. Goode, who grew up in Ocean Township, moved here much more recently with his wife.

But, that advantage didn’t work for Benedict-Kovacs’ favor last year, and it’s unclear how those tides will change.

Kovacs and Goode are the weakest candidates on either side.

In an interview with the Republicans in early October, Kovacs allowed Benedict to speak most of the time. Benedict needed to prod Kovacs to speak at one point. Kovacs garnered the fewest votes last year.

Goode, who has the advantage of incumbency, has never stood for election. He has only served on the council since June when he was appointed to replace Ken McPeek, who resigned because he moved out of Keyport. McPeek’s term would have ended this year.

That still gives the Republicans an edge because control is dependent on just one seat, but how sharp that edge is remains to be seen.

Editor’s Note: They Keyport Democrats purchased an ad for $200 to run for one month on the Anchor. The same rates and terms were offered to the Keyport Republicans. The borough GOP declined to purchase an advertisement.