I have been a Westfield resident all my life, and I’m proud to call it home. Westfield is great because it gave me the opportunity to grow up in a beautiful, safe neighborhood and all the while receive a quality education that prepared me for the challenges of college.

One of the ways I choose to support Westfield while away at college is by voting. I’ve been following the intense mayoral race through online news, and with my absentee ballot arriving in the mail, it’s decision time. While making my choice, I reflected upon both mayoral candidates, and there has been concerning behavior from the Brindle campaign and supporters that is prompting me to write this letter to also ask you to make the best choice for our town, Mayor Andy Skibitsky.

The most alarming part about this race is that Shelley has chosen to accept the majority of her campaign contributions from out-of-state donors. I analyzed Shelley’s campaign contributions through the end of July that are publicly available on NJ ELEC and found that 61.3 percent of her money came from other states. In that manner, she does not represent Westfield; those who have financially supported her are not the people she would be responsible for governing as mayor of Westfield. If that doesn't send a red herring, I don't know what does. On the other hand, Mayor Skibitsky is someone that is supported by the people of Westfield and is someone who only answers to the people of Westfield.

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Another bothersome part about the race is that Shelley's campaign is filled with too many personal attacks; none of which are substantive. One example is the claim that Andy has been mayor for "too long," which ignores his record as mayor. If you find this convincing, look at his accomplishments. Over the past 12 years, he has improved parking access, paved numerous roads, kept taxes low, expanded town services, created a direct train route to NYC and stopped the train whistle from blowing while in town. There are many more I haven’t listed.

Moreover, Mayor Skibitsky always makes himself present, talks to people throughout town and gathers their feedback. All of the time, he considers their feedback and acts upon it. That's what keeps new ideas flowing in, and that's how Westfield has received so many accolades over the past twelve years under his leadership. On the other hand, another attack that her supporters like to throw around is that Westfield is a “boys club.” By throwing that term around, not only is Shelley’s campaign and supporters engaging in dirty gender politics, but they mistakenly ignore the many women Andy has appointed in prominent town committee and board roles and that he has chosen Councilwoman Jo Ann Neylan as his acting mayor. Her personal attacks are an attempt to distract voters like me from the substantive issues that we care about.

Likewise, Shelley’s campaign and supporters distract voters from the local issues by focusing on national issues. Shelley’s desire to transform a local race about our downtown, roads and other matters into a national race about guns and climate change says that she lacks an understanding of the responsibilities as mayor and the needs of the people in Westfield. On Facebook, she posted that she would uphold the Paris Climate Agreement immediately after President Trump declared he would withdraw from it. Also, she participated in a protest in Westfield that urged for gun control and used the time to speak to voters.

As a political candidate, where she chooses to campaign carries weight, so Shelley is at the very least tacitly and at the very most explicitly endorsing gun control. Yet, she will have no effect on either of these issues as mayor. This also says where her priorities lie; rather than trying to understand the concerns and needs of the people in Westfield, she looks to divide our town on national issues to give herself an edge on the campaign trail. That rhetoric trickles down. Highlighting bitter national partisan issues in a local race has brought the same bitter partisanship to our town and its Facebook pages, and that is not how local political races have been run in the past.

Ultimately, the people of Westfield have a choice whether to endorse this type of campaigning. The cash flow coming from out of state, to me, seems she desires to grab power more than serve the people of Westfield. If you endorse her campaign, this means that mayoral races will only become more expensive and have a greater influence from outside sources that do not care about the needs of Westfield residents. The same goes with the personal attacks; the fact that she's resorted to attacking Mayor Skibitsky personally, to me, says that she has no way to make her case as mayor other than to vilify her opponent. Again, if you endorse this, it means that Westfield’s local races will only become more caustic and further transform friendly neighbors into bickering partisans.

The choice for me was clear. This holiday season, I want to return home to a Westfield that is united and that is working to address the needs of residents like me. I’m with the candidate who has a proven record, a clear platform that will benefit my town, and has consistently stuck to his positive message for Westfield on the campaign trail; that is why I’m voting for Mayor Skibitsky.

Anthony Pericolo

Westfield, NJ