Campaign signs

Campaign signs have sprung up along Route 9 near Route 47 in the Rio Grande section of Middle Township ahead of election day. Four candidates are seeking two seats on the Cape May County Board of Freeholders.

JACK TOMCZUK / Staff Writer

Three people are running for Middle Township Committee: the Democratic mayor, a Republican former mayor and an independent who is actually a Republican.

Democratic Mayor Michael Clark, 51, of the Swainton section of the township, is running for re-election. He faces Republican former Mayor Dan Lockwood, 48, of Cape May Court House, and Cape May Court House resident Patricia Taylor, a registered Republic and member of the township’s school board.

Lockwood, 48, of the Cape May Court House section of the township, was on the committee for six years and was mayor for two before being defeated last year by Democrat Jeffrey Devico.

Lockwood, who owns a landscaping company called Professional Exteriors, made history in 2010 when he became the first Republican elected to the township’s committee in more than 50 years.

Clark has been president of the Cape May Court House Volunteer Fire Company for 18 years, and he runs the Cape May branch of Sturdy Savings Bank.

Taylor is in her second term on the township’s board of education. Previously, she worked for the Casino Control Commission and taught at Cape May County Technical High School.

The township committee is composed of three members serving staggered three-year terms. The committee chooses one of its members as the mayor, who serves a one-year term. Devico and Republican Timothy Donohue are the other two members of the committee.

Both Lockwood and Clark said public safety and the drug epidemic are the biggest issues facing the township.

“We want to make people feel safe in Rio Grande,” Clark said.

“We still see a lot of drug-related crimes,” said Lockwood.

All three candidates mentioned the Rio Grande section when talking about the township’s drug problems.

The township was rocked after the killing of Nicole Angstadt, a 15-year-old Lower Township girl whose remains were found in the crawlspace of a vacant home in Rio Grande. Two men who lived in the township were charged with murder in connection to her death.

Clark touted his administration’s decision to set up a police substation in Rio Grande, Cape May County’s largest retail corridor.

He also praised the decision to form a partnership between the police department and CURE, a program run by Lighthouse Church aimed at getting addicts help.

“We’re not going to be able to arrest our way out of the problem we have,” Clark said.

Lockwood said the police department needs to hire more officers to help fight the heroin epidemic. He’s also proposed a three-year plan to repair roads through the township’s public works department.

He said repaved roads stops wear and tear on vehicles, increase safety and boosts property values. The program would be funded through cutting costs associated with hiring contractors, Lockwood said.

Taylor said she wanted to run as an independent Republican, but the county GOP objected to her using the party’s name, so she was forced to run as an independent.

She and her husband, Ed Taylor, had been leaders of the township’s GOP but were removed because other Republicans “blamed” them for Lockwood’s surprising loss last year, she said.

Taylor, who said she attends every township committee meeting, said she was not pleased with the way the governing body was operating.

“They’re not working together,” she said. “The Democrats and the Republicans just can’t come to a compromise.”

She also said she was running to make the township “open and transparent” for its residents.

All three candidates will be on the ballot Nov. 8.

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