BERNARDS TWP., NJ – Joan Bannan Harris and Robert (Bobby) Mascia, this year's Democratic candidates for Bernards Township Committee, will officially launch their campaign at 11 a.m. this Saturday, May 5 at the Allen Street Gazebo at the corner of Allen Street and North Finley Avenue in downtown Basking Ridge.

Residents are invited to meet the candidates, engage in discussion and enjoy some refreshments, according to an announcement from the campaign team. Both candidates have been officially endorsed by the Bernards Township Democratic Committee.

“Last year, we advocated for open, transparent and inclusive local government,” said Harris, who last November came within fewer than 90 votes of winning a seat on the all-Republican Township Committee.

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In a release about this Saturday's campaign kickoff, Harris said that many Bernards voters had responded to the issues raised by herself and her Democratic running mate, Sally Booth, who both campaigned vigorously throughout the township in 2017.

Harris listed the issues raised  "as the failure of the Township Committee to fully inform residents about the Millington Quarry redevelopment plan and involve them in it the way they deserve; the practice of three Township Committee members accepting optional health care benefits for years, which cost taxpayers more than $750,000; the waste of public tax dollars in the unnecessary payment of attorney, expert and public relations fees; and the need to focus on youth mental health." As this year started, Harris said that her hopes had been dashed that the Republicans would reach out to a more representative and broader group of qualified residents to serve as volunteers on township boards and committees when making appointments in January. Harris is a member of the township Board of Health. 

This year, Harris said that she and Mascia plan to build on the momentum that Democratic candidates had built in the 2017 election. "We will bring real change to our township," she said in the campaign launch announcement.

A first-time candidate, Mascia said he also believes the community wants change in the way local government operates. 

Mascia added that, “Everything Joan and I are looking to accomplish has to pass this litmus test: Does it make for a better Bernards Township, will it keep our taxes low, and does the community have all of the information?"

“Transparency is paramount because we are representatives of the people," Mascia said in the campaign launch announcement. "It’s time to hold our local representatives to a higher level of accountability, like we do professionals we hire. It’s time for more than just new faces; it’s time for real change.”

Harris is a 17-year resident of Bernards Township, where she raised her four children while working full time and volunteering for school, athletic and community organizations.

She is an experienced civil trial attorney and a former assistant prosecutor, according to the campaign announcement. Presently, Harris is a manager with Coverys, a national medical professional liability insurer, where she oversees the handling of complex, high exposure claims and lawsuits. 

Harris has spoken at community and school events about adolescent substance use disorders and currently serves on the Bernards Township Municipal Alliance Against Substance Abuse, as well as the Board of Health.  She was recently certified by the National Council for Behavioral Health in Washington, D.C. as a Youth Mental Health First Aid Instructor.

Mascia is a seven-year resident of Bernards Township, where he lives with his wife, Brooke, and their three young children. He is the founder and owner of Green Ridge Wealth Planning in Bedminster, a financial planning and business consulting firm, and has served as vice president of the Bernards Township Chamber of Commerce, according to the campaign announcement.

Mascia graduated from Lehigh University and pursued a financial career before joining his family’s food and beverage business, the announcement said. During his time there, he developed more than 20 new commercial locations and is well versed in both commercial and residential planning, building and zoning. Mascia, who is known to many as “Coach Bobby,” is a volunteer coach for Bernards Township recreational Tee-ball, baseball, flag football and travel baseball.

The candidates said they both are looking forward to the launch as the first of many opportunities to meet with residents and to engage the community in the discussions that drive good representative government. 

The guest speaker scheduled to attend the the May 5 launch is the Democratic candidate for US Representative for NJ District 7, Tom Malinowski. Other invited guests to the May 5 launch include: Somerset County Clerk Steve Peters; candidate for US Representative for NJ District 7 Goutam Jois; Somerset County Freeholder candidates Shanel Robinson and Sara Sooy; and members of the Somerset County and Bernards Township Democratic Committees.

Information on the launch is also posted on the Bernards Township Democratic Committee Facebook Page.

The Allen Street gazebo is the traditional location for local candidates to launch their campaigns. Last Saturday, April 28, Republican Township Committee candidates Joe Esposito and John Surano announced their campaign for Bernards Township Committee in 2018.