2005-11-22 / Front Page

Barham, Burry keep freeholders all GOP

Challenges by Unger, McMorrow, Aaronson turned back on Nov. 8

Staff Writer

Ironically, the most vocal advocate for wholesale change in Monmouth County government may have been the individual who caused that change to be delayed for at least another year.

Arguably, Brian Unger, 53, of Long Branch, the Green Party candidate for one of the two open three-year spots on the Board of Freeholders in the Nov. 8 election, was the biggest harbinger for change from the all-Republican five-member board. The support he received from voters may have cost Democrats a chance to break the Republicans’ decades-long control of the board.

As it was, the Democrats made their best showing in years in the election and narrowly missed winning at least one of the two open seats.

Incumbent Republican Freeholder William C. Barham, 52, of Monmouth Beach, and Lillian G. Burry, 69, of Colts Neck, were victorious in their bid to keep the county’s governing body all-Republican.

However, the race for the freeholder seats was closer than it has been in years, which is where Unger comes in.

Barham, who was appointed to serve the remaining year of the late Harry Larrison’s term earlier this year, was the top vote-getter with 83,611 votes.

Burry, who is completing her eighth year as a member of the Colts Neck Township Committee, was second with 81,917 votes, good enough to get her a three-year term on the freeholder board.

Barbara McMorrow, 58, of Freehold Township, a former member of the Borough Council in Freehold Borough and the former principal of Howell High School, was third with 80,125 votes, the best showing for a Democratic candidate in years.

Rebecca Aaronson, 52, of Manalapan, who is completing her second three-year term on the Manalapan Township Committee, received 77,601 votes to finish fourth. She did not seek re-election to the Manalapan committee this year.

Unger trailed the field with 18,698 votes, representing the Green Party. His vote total was considered a very strong showing for a third party candidate.

The question that remains to be considered in the wake of the election is this: “How many votes did Unger take away from the Democrats, since both he and the Democrats were running basically on a platform that called for wholesale change in the way in which Monmouth County government is run?”

“I think the Green Party votes probably did affect the results,” McMorrow said. “It’s clear in recent years that the Green Party has had effect on elections at all levels, and that is fine with me. That is what America is all about.

Anyone can run for office.”

The Board of Freeholders has been taking on an entirely new look, even though it is still all-Republican.

Barham has been on the board for nearly a year as Larrison’s successor, and will begin his own three-year term in January. Robert D. Clifton, of Matawan, was elected to his first term in 2004.

On Nov. 8, Freeholder Amy Handlin, of Middletown, was elected to the state Assembly in the 13th District (Monmouth and Middlesex). She has said she will resign as a freeholder and the Republicans would then have to appoint someone to replace her until the November 2006 election.

Freeholder Director Thomas Powers, of Wall Township, did not seek re-election this year after 20-plus years of service on the board.

Freeholder Ted Narozanick, 85, of Freehold Borough, who is expected to become the board’s new director in January, has said he will not seek re-election after the final year of his current three-year term next year. That would mean another new face on the board in January 2007.

Aaronson, McMorrow and Unger said they hope the Republicans receive the message sent by Monmouth County voters through the Democrats’ narrow loss and Unger’s strong showing.

“I sincerely hope that the newly elected freeholders were listening to our platform because it comes directly from the voters we talked to,” Aaronson wrote in a letter to the editor. “Barbara and I traveled the entire county, all 53 towns, and spoke to thousands of residents from both political parties. We were at train stations, bus stops, town hall meetings as well as at their front doors. Many said that as long as we weren’t incumbents, they would give us a chance.”

Aaronson accused her opponents of running a dirty campaign and even of resorting to outright lying.

“Their (Republicans) claim that I raised taxes by an exorbitant amount while serving in Manalapan could be easily disproved by a simple phone call,” Aaronson wrote. “Their accusation that my campaign treasurer’s office was raided by the FBI is an outright lie, and a good and decent man’s reputation is now tarnished; their statement regarding taking money from an indicted developer while he was building in Manalapan is also a blatant lie; that I was fined by ELEC (Election Law Enforcement Commission) for incorrect campaign reports is completely untrue also.”

Unger said, “I think we got the message across that there must be change in the way the Monmouth County government is run. I think it is obvious that the Green Party is becoming more prominent and making a difference. I think we got the message across that the people want our government to get rid of corruption and excessive spending. I think the Republicans took us seriously.”

Unger said he had spoken with Monmouth County Democratic leaders about the possibility of representing the party in some election, although he said he never specifically asked to be considered for a spot on the freeholder ticket. Unger said a published report in another newspaper last week misstated his attempt to run as a Democrat in the freeholder race.

The newly elected Republicans have said they will work toward change.

Barham, the chief executive of Thomas H. Barham Co., who has also served as a Monmouth Beach commissioner, has been involved with whatever reforms and changes have been made by the current freeholders during the past year in the way the county does business.

Barham has said he believes his business background is one of his strongest assets.

“The county deserves to be run like a business and that is how I will run it,” he said.

Burry emphasized that she had run on her own merits as a member of the Colts Neck committee. She said property taxes will be one of her main priorities as a new freeholder.

“I will work to maintain a stable tax rate and control spending, while maintaining the standard of life we have enjoyed in our county,” she said.

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