LAMBERTVILLE, NJ - Five candidates are seeking two seats for city council in the Lambertville Democratic Primary.
According to the Hunterdon County Clerk, 2,183 Lambertville residents are Democrats, which is roughly 64 percent of registered voters in the city. With no Republicans having filed to run, a victory in the July 7 primary would provide the two winners with a strong path to the council seats.
Current council president Beth Asaro is running a campaign with fellow incumbent Madeleine Urbish. Challengers include the joint ticket of former council president Steve Stegman and Benedetta Lambert.
Local architect, David Ringer, is also running.
Besides the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps the biggest town issue has been over Mayor Julia Fahl’s proposal to consolidate three municipal buildings – the police station, the public library and city hall. Fahl announced these plans Jan. 31 as part of her “State of the City” speech, and identified the current Philip L. Pittore Justice Center, a.k.a. “The ACME building,” as the site for the intended project.
The next day, the city government held a Community Development Fair, which was meant to educate the public about the project, among other issues.
Fahl is supporting Asaro and Urbish, who have also received the backing of the Lambertville Democratic Club.
The redevelopment plan has since evolved and also intertwined with the city’s fair share affordable housing obligations.
The Asaro/Urbish team has mostly zeroed in on the city’s debt, choosing to focus on Stegman’s past as council president.
A June 24 video on the Asaro/Urbish Facebook page features Urbish focusing on Stegman without naming him.
“We are tired of the lies about taxes and the budget being spread by our opponents, especially given the former council president’s role in creating the financial mess we're in and his refusal to take on any accountability for it,” the post reads.
Stegman and Lambert have concentrated on spending and the consolidation plan, with campaign signs reading “Stop Overdevelopment.”
Also on June 24, the Stegman/Lambert campaign posted to their Facebook campaign page a photo reading, “In the last two years, Lambertville has seen the largest tax increase in history ... Since 2018, the City has increased spending 18% for a total of $950,278.71. The City has also raised taxes 21%.”
Ringer is also critical of the consolidation plans. In the “Why” section on his campaign site, he wrote, “An over-sized, modern building in a flood zone with a police station on a small quiet residential street? It was all beyond belief.”
Asaro has been on council for 12 years, serving as council president since 2019. Stegman had served on the governing body for seventeen years before stepping down from his role of council president in 2018.
Urbish is facing her first Lambertville election. She is a former aide to Gov. Phil Murphy and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, and replaced a retiring councilperson in December 2019.
Lambert is a former information technology professional, and is married to a 13th-generation member of the Lambert family.
In addition to being an architect, David Ringer was a past commissioner on the Trenton Landmarks Commission for Historic Preservation.
In June, Indivisible of New Hope and Lambertville held a candidates’ corner and the Lambertville Democratic Club sponsored a candidate forum moderated by the League of Women Voters of Somerset and Hunterdon Counties.
The vote-by-mail primary is open to registered Democrats. This year, registered voters received special ballot applications where they could declare party affiliation.