Challengers have become the establishment in Northfield, where New Republicans Jim O'Neill and John Dunn gained the endorsement of the city's party committee against incumbent Republican Councilmen Tim Carew and Tom Polistina in Tuesday's primary.

O'Neill, a 2nd Ward councilman since 2012, is running for an at-large seat against incumbent Tim Carew, who is seeking his fourth term. Dunn is running against 1st Ward incumbent Polistina, seeking his second term.

O'Neill, 46, owner of Computer Service and Support Inc. in Linwood, said that he is running for an at-large seat "because I've enjoyed every day since I was elected, serving my fellow citizens and helping them through any issues."

He said he brings a small-business philosophy to city government, with expertise in "hiring vendors, developing budgets and bringing best practices to the departments I oversee," and he cited the last two budgets that contained no tax increase in 2012 and a 1 cent in 2013.

O'Neill said there is more open bidding than before, one of his original campaign promises, and in terms of spending, "We have to target specific projects we need to work on in the future, make sure we bid them properly and make sure we get quality work at the lowest cost to the taxpayer."

Carew cited accomplishments such as creating "substantial shared services," including sharing the chief of police and courts with Linwood, "which creates economic stability through permanent cuts to the budget that we're able to sustain."

Carew also cited $60,000 in Clean Community grants, which included a $14,000 grant to upgrade City Hall and save on gas and electricity, improvements to "quality-of-life issues such as the resolution of drainage problems at Hollywood and Pasadena drives, and enhancements to Cedarbridge Avenue and Second and Davis avenues that came in on time and on budget.

In addition, Carew said, he worked with Mayor Vince Mazzeo and the city library to return more than $250,000 in surplus to the city, which can be used in future budgets, and the creation and sale of a liquor license for more than $60,000.

"The city is right now in pretty good shape financially because of the way we manage annual appropriations," Carew said, adding that he and Polistina "bring experience and knowledge we believe the council could use with its current makeup."

Dunn, 56, co-owner of Dunn Insurance in Somers Point, said he is running for a 1st Ward seat "to provide the community with transparent government and open bidding for all contracts. ... The most important issue is having open and transparent government."

He said he would donate his entire council salary to the city, as O'Neill has done.

Polistina said he ran three years ago "to do some good, and that's why I ran again."

Polistina said that "as different things came up that were 'controversial,' I took charge and got them cleaned up," such as putting out the request for proposals for EMS after AtlantiCare left - "A lot of people didn't want to do that and wanted to shrink down to a smaller (squad), but I thought that would be unsafe for the city," he said - and hiring a new CFO after Marilyn Dolcy left.

Regarding the New Republicans, O'Neill said that "we went from a small group of individuals to now over 60 members over the last three years. The organization has worked diligently in past elections, and now we have three new councilmembers, and a fourth, Greg Dewees, is now a member of the New Republican Club.

For his part, Carew said that being on a different ballot line "puts you behind the 8-ball a certain amount. It just makes us work a little bit harder to make people recognize we're in column B."

The winners in Tuesday's primary will face Democrats Frank Perri, running for the at-large seat, and Paul Utts, running in the 1st Ward. Dewees is running unopposed in the primary in the 2nd Ward race and will face Democrat Gerard McGee.

Contact Steven Lemongello:

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