SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Although they were all smiles after the only scheduled debate among the Scotch Plains Township Council candidates, Democratic challengers Luisa Bianco, Rose Checchio, and John Del Sordi, and Republican incumbents Llewellyn Jones, Mickey Marcus, and Bo Vastine spent more than an hour highlighting their qualifications and outlining their differences.

The candidates fielded questions on topics including taxes, the proposed police force merger, equipment purchases, maintenance of township parks, capital bond issues, partisanship, and experience.

Incumbents Jones, Marcus and Vastine highlighted their experience and derided "complainers" who  present problems without suggesting solutions. Challengers Bianco, Checchio, and Del Sordi discussed a lack of civility on the council, stressed the need for service improvements, and accused their opponents of "not getting the job done."

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During the first part of the evening, moderator Fred Rossi asked each candidate a question that they had one minute to answer with all of the others then having 30 seconds to respond. In the second section of the debate, each candidate fielded a different question and had 90 seconds in which to reply. All six candidates were given the opportunity to discuss their private sector experience and explain how it translated to the Township Council.

Vastine caused the biggest stir by first highlighting his credentials, including 13 years of sales experience on Wall Street and his current role as the finance manager for the Plainfield Area YMCA. and then spoke about a Department of Labor document he had read that cited Del Sordi, a union leader, of "financial record keeping flaws." Vastine said: "I think they cited you for at least seven things that were inappropriately accounted for. I'm wondering if you are using that personal professional experience and how it translates into being on the Town Council in Scotch Plains."

Democrat Luisa Bianco, the next scheduled speaker, quickly defended her running mate following Vastine's attack and received a loud round of applause when she said: "This is why we are running. This kind of behavior is unacceptable."

Lastly, each candidate was given three minutes to deliver closing statements. These closing remarks will be posted in subsequent articles here on TAP into SPF.