HOWELL TOWNSHIP, NJ – Democrats are maintaining their lead in the Howell Township mayoral and council election held Tuesday.
Incumbent Mayor Theresa Berger and her running mate, Andre DeGarmeaux have maintained their lead as mail-in ballots continue to be counted. Berger leads her Republican challenger Suzanne M. Brenna 10,949 votes to 8,088. DeGarmeaux has 10,100 votes compared to 8,685 by his opponent, incumbent councilwoman Evelyn Malsbury-O’Donnell.
If Berger and DeGarmeux hold onto their lead as counting is expected to begin winding down in the next few days, it would give the Democrats a 3-2 majority on the township council. Their victory could also mean the end of embattled Business Manager Brian Geoghegan of Toms River. Geoghegan’s close connections with the GOP establishment will likely allow himself to land on his feet elsewhere in either Monmouth or Ocean County. This is the third business administration patronage job Geoghegan has held since he retired from the Jackson Police Department in 2014.
Howell voters appear to have overlooked party lines in this year’s election and voted based on local issues. Berger and DeGarmeux strongly opposed the construction of a huge solid waste transfer facility on Randolph Road. That facility is being built by a company owned by the husband of Claire French, former GOP clerk of Monmouth County. The plan had the full endorsement of the GOP establishment until Shore News Network went public with an unpublicized meeting of the Solid Waste Advisory Council two years ago. Since then the GOP establishment that had rubber-stamped the proposal has taken a public stance against it.
Another hot-button issue in Howell was the increase in high-density development approved during the Republican party’s control of the town council. The Democrats opposed those developments while Republicans are being accused of pushing those projects through the pipeline for connected developers and friends by the Democrats.
While Berger’s lead continues to increase, O’Donnell has slightly closed the gap by about 50 votes per every 1,000 ballots counted. That ratio will have to substantially increase for O’Donnell to make up the group in DeGarmeaux for her to pull a come-from-behind victory.