BERNARDSVILLE NJ - It's not always easy for the Bernardsville Democrats. The Republican Party holds a 6-0 advantage on the borough council and a Republican, Kevin Sooy, is the borough's mayor. The GOP has long dominated the local elections. It may not be easy for the Democrats they are undaunted.
This year, Democrats Mike O'Brien and Melissa Provost are challenging incumbents Mike DePoortere and Jeff DeLeo for two three-year terms on the borough council. The election will be held on Tuesday's.
To some, history doesn't seem to favor the Democrats, but hey don't see it that way. The Bernardsville Democrats trace their lineage to the 2001 general election when Joe DeMarco ran without any party machinery to support him. DeMarco was unknown at the time. DeMarco made a credible showing in a losing effort in 2001 and in a 2007 near miss. He broke through in 2008, winning a convincing 300-vote margin to become the first Democrat to win a council seat since the 1964 LBJ landslide. He served one term on the council, and was often the deciding vote when the Republicans were divided.
Since DeMarco's victory, the Democrats have given the Republicans a run for their money, but have come up short. This year, Provost and O'Brien face a more united Republican Party.
Provost is a Senior Attorney in Drinker, Biddle and Reath's Labor and Employment Practice group. A mother of three, Provost and her husband Ricardo have resided in the borough for eleven years. O'Brien is a Senior Vice President with the Bank of America Merrill Lynch. O'Brien and his wife Mariel are twenty year borough residents. All three of the couple's children have graduated from Bernards High School.
The Democrats's signature isssue is downtown revitalization. When they ran on downtown revitalization in 2014, they held a public discussion of the project. The Democrats maintain that the borough's downtown needs a facelift, and that it is not sufficiently family-friendly. They contend that the borough needs to hire a expert to make recommendations on what the borough should do to foster downtown redevelopment.
The Republican nominees are Mike dePoortere and Jeff DeLeo. They are running as the nominees of a local party that appears to be united after years of infighting. The Republicans are both serving the final year of a three-year term. DeLeo is a clinical trials manager for Novartis Pharmaceuticals. dePoortere is an engineer and general superintendent for Turner Construction.
The Republicans point to the borough's AAA bond rating and the progress that the borough has made on infrastructure projects.
The election will be held on Tuesday November 3.