MIDDLE TOWNSHIP - Two political newcomers will compete in November for a Township Committee seat that will determine whether a town controlled by Democrats for decades will be under complete Republican control.
Tuesday's primary set up the race. Michael Clark, 47, of Swainton, who works as the Cape May branch manager for Sturdy Savings Bank, won the Democratic primary 328 to 140 over Salvatore DeSimone.
Melanie Collins, 42, of Cape May Court House, who works as a teacher at Middle Township High School, tallied 670 votes in winning her uncontested Republican primary.
Township Committee was controlled by Democrats from 1929 until 2011, when the Republicans took control of two of the three seats. Susan DeLanzo, the lone Democrat, decided not to run for re-election this year, so it's up to Clark, the president of the Middle Township Democratic Club, to keep at least one Democrat on the governing body.
"I think people are not necessarily happy with what's going on. I'm not sure if you have a full Republican board whether you'll have balance. I'm for doing what's best for the majority of the people in Middle Township," Clark said.
Collins said the Republicans have made strides in lowering the cost of government since taking control but need that third seat to have a "full consensus" on making changes.
"The biggest issue is unemployment is unacceptably high at 8.6 percent in Middle, which is well above the national average. Jobs are the main priority. We have to streamline regulations to help small business and entrepreneurs. That is the key to job growth," Collins said.
Clark and Collins have never held elective office, though both have served on the Middle Township Planning Board. Collins helped with previous Republican campaigns.
Clark is a longtime volunteer firefighter in Cape May Court House and since 1997 has served as company president. He's currently president of the Cape May County Firemen's Association and is involved with both the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs.
Clark has been a banker since 1993 and said that background will help with a number of issues ranging from taxes to sewer improvements. He said the "hot button issue" could be a plan to put affordable housing units in Cape May Court House.
"I think it's going to be very burdensome on the taxpayers," Clark said.
Collins said she has a unique perspective as a woman and an African-American; to her knowledge the first black female to win a primary in the township.
"The fact that I'm an African-American and a woman brings a uniqueness of thought you don't get from a different race or gender. It would be a little more representative of the (diverse) nature of Middle Township," Collins said.
Clark is a native of Vermont who moved here in 1990. Collins is a Philadelphia native and 1988 graduate of Middle Township High School.
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