LOWER TOWNSHIP - Former Mayor Walt Craig is seeking the 2nd Ward Township Council seat vacated in December by Republican Erik Simonsen.
The Lower Township Regular Republican Organization met in December to select three people to replace Simonsen, who left office because he is moving out of the ward.
Craig, John Rechner and Edith Kopsitz were nominated from the floor at the Republican meeting, which was not open to the media. Craig said he received the most votes.
"I was the top vote-getter. When the opportunity arose, I kind of liked the idea of getting back in and working for the people of Ward 2," Craig said.
The decision may be made by Township Council during Wednesday night's reorganization meeting. The new council member could be sworn in that night if council can agree on a selection. If not, the decision is in the hands of the Republican organization, which may require another vote.
Craig, who was mayor from 2005-08 and is a former chairman of the local Republican organization, has served with three of the four council members making the decision: fellow Republicans Glenn Douglass and Tom Conrad, and independent Mayor Mike Beck. He has not served with Deputy Mayor Kevin Lare, but he may get Lare's vote.
"I think I'm going to support whoever gets the most votes coming out of the committee. That's been my position all along," Lare said.
On Monday, former Republican Beck said he has not made up his mind and wants to hear what the Republicans on council have to say before he casts his vote.
"Whatever decision I make, it will be for the good of the township and not any political organization. It's who is best for Lower Township," Beck said.
Simonsen's replacement will only be guaranteed a seat this year. In November, the seat will be tacked on to the scheduled election for a mayor and deputy mayor. With three seats up for grabs, it could determine which party controls the township.
"What you really have is a unique opportunity. You have control of council being decided in a general election. That's not the norm. Usually you have the mayor and deputy mayor running," Beck said.
The 2nd Ward seat would again be up for a vote in November 2014.
Craig, of the Fishing Creek section of the township, was the party pick in 2008 to run for a second term but lost the primary to Glenn Douglass. Beck won the seat in November over Douglass. Craig stepped down as Republican chairman in June 2008 shortly after the primary, after having chaired the party for four years. He recently got back on the Republican committee. Craig said he retired from his Cape May County job Dec. 31.
Kopsitz, of the North Cape May section of the township, served for nine years on the Republican committee but is not currently on it. She works in the Cape May construction office. Kopsitz said the council could use a female voice.
"I really feel, especially in this day and age, a female perspective is definitely needed. I felt it was a great opportunity. We'll see how it goes on Wednesday," Kopsitz said.
Rechner, also of North Cape May, and who works for Cape May County, has been on the Republican committee for 15 years but, like Kopsitz, has never run for council. Rechner said he was supposed to run once against Democrat Wayne Mazurek but "he was a friend of mine" so he decided not to run. Now he wants to serve.
"I want to keep Lower Township on the straight and narrow. I want to keep taxes down, keep public safety intact and get some tourism here so we can raise some revenue," Rechner said.
Contact Richard Degener:
Lower Township Council will hold its annual reorganization meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Municipal Complex, 2600 Bayshore Road in the Villas section. For a meeting agenda, visit TownshipofLower.org