BARNEGAT TOWNSHIP - Following a recent rift in the local Democratic club, voters will head to the polls June 2 for the only contested municipal primary of any party in the county this year.
After what members have described as personality clashes and policy disagreements, a group of local Democrats broke from the official club earlier this year to form the New Democratic Alliance, which will be represented by Marianne P. Clemente and Howard Effron in the primary.
"There were several of us who were, quite frankly, tired of trying to get things done through the normal channels," said Clemente, who said she was frustrated with the Democratic leadership's lack of transparency and communication.
Clemente and Effron will face Fred Rubenstein and Jeff Schenker, both of whom were endorsed by the official Democratic organization after Clemente and Effron chose not to apply for its selection.
Both teams of candidates said they want to focus their campaigns against the Republican majority on the committee, especially incumbents Mayor Jeffrey M. Melchiondo and Deputy Mayor Alfonso Cirulli, whom the primary winners will face in the general election.
Nevertheless, each said their experience better prepares them to make the changes they felt are needed in the township.
"Jeff and I firmly believe there is an emergent need for an overhaul of how the town does business," Rubenstein said. "Too many people are going to be hurt if we dawdle, and I think what Marianne and Howard have put on their Web site" - marianneandhoward.com - "is just the opposite."
Rubenstein, 60, is a chief regional supervisor for NJ Transit. He also worked for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City, which he said taught him how to address large organizational issues, such as replacing fleets of vehicles with more fuel-efficient models.
Schenker is a teacher in the Toms River School District. He touted his 30 years of experience in education and involvement in various local organizations as showing he has the drive and commitment for solving difficult issues through consensus.
Together, they said they were more prepared than their opponents to tackle what they felt are some of the most important issues: tax stability, bringing commercial businesses to town and restoring the historical downtown area.
Clemente and Effron similarly argued that their own professional experience made them better candidates.
Clemente, 63, is retired, having left a position several years ago as vice president and senior operations manager for Bankers Trust Company in New York City, in which she said she oversaw budgets and payrolls for various departments.
Effron, 52, is the executive chef at Kubel's and Kubel's Too, two restaurants on Long Beach Island. He said his experience there translates into effective management skills and the ability to run the township like a business.
"I think we have a better business sense all around," Effron said. "I believe that we can definitely do more as a business, getting more from employees and negotiating contracts, saving money, not wasting money, and I believe we would take more of an interest in what's going on."
In the coming weeks, Schenker and Rubenstein said they would be advertising and mounting an aggressive outreach program, and soon they plan to launch their own Web site: OurBarnegat.com.
Meanwhile, Effron and Clemente said they would be spreading the word about their candidacy and using their Web site as a tool.
Each team of candidates said they would support whoever wins the primary, rather than running as independents in the general election.
Dennis Spangler, the newly elected Democratic municipal chairman, said the primary winners also would receive the full backing of the local club in the general election, despite the recent division in the organization. He said he felt this was the Democrats' year to win, and to take over the majority on the committee, which the party has not held for more than a decade.
"There is going to be no split," he said. "Whoever wins the nomination, everybody has pledged to support them to win in November."
E-mail Lee Procida: