PRINCETON: Councilwoman Jo Butler won’t run for re-election; planning board member David Cohen tosses hat in the ring


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By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Councilwoman Jo S. Butler announced Sunday that she is not running for re-election, while a political ally of hers, planning board member David Cohen, said he was getting into the race after having had a change of heart., The two announcements added clarity to the upcoming council race in which two seats will be up for grabs. Ms. Butler is the second incumbent, Councilman and fellow Democrat Bernard P. Miller being the other, to bow out., So far, only two Democrats, Mr. Cohen and Leticia Fraga, have said they would run in their party’s primary, the defacto general election in Princeton given the edge Democrats have in registered voters against Republicans. And with party leadership saying this week that it was not aware of anyone else running on the Democratic side, that would mean the race for council will have been effectively decided before January is ended – months before voters go to the polls., Ms. Butler ended speculation about her plans by pointing to the difficulties in balancing work at Wickenden Associates, where she is a search consultant for a company that finds school leaders, and the “increasing daytime” commitments she had with her government responsibilities., The town has added 8 a.m. meetings to the council schedule, but only on an as “needed” basis. In a phone interview Monday, she laughed off a question when asked if she thought Mayor Liz Lempert, her political adversary, had done that on purpose. “No,” she said, “I don’t think it was deliberate to push me out.”, Within political circles, there was speculation that Ms. Butler, 63, would forgo another term; she is in her seventh year in government, having served on the Borough Council for two years prior to consolidation. She has maintained that she was “weighing” her options, but she said the Democratic municipal committee had pressured her to make up her mind., Princeton Democratic Party chairwoman Scotia W. MacRae said Monday that party leaders had gone to Ms. Butler asking her if she was going to run. For her part, Ms. MacRae said she had advised Ms. Butler to make up her mind “sooner rather than later” so that Ms. Butler would be in control of her decision to run or not., As word spread of her announcement, Mr. Miller said Monday that he was “surprised” that Ms. Butler was not running for another term. Mayor Lempert did not return phone messages on Monday., With Mr. Miller and Ms. Butler out of the way, that has opened the door for newcomers to win seats on the governing body. Ms. Fraga, who lost her race for council in the primary last year, had already declared her candidacy. Mr. Cohen, who previously said he was not running, announced Monday he would be a candidate., Mr. Cohen, 58, an architect, has been on the planning board for three years, and has lived in town for approximately 30 years. He said Monday that Ms. MacRae and others had urged him to run, an option that he appeared to rule out a few weeks ago., But he said he found himself inspired by the Women’s March in Washington D.C., an event he and his family attended Jan.21., Mr. Cohen had backed Ms. Butler during her re-election campaign in 2014. Ms. Butler said she had spoken to him over the weekend to say she was almost certainly not going to run for another term. But she stopped short Monday of endorsing his candidacy – for now., “I haven’t gotten that far,” Ms. Butler said., As for Ms. Fraga, she said Monday that she had been hoped to serve with Ms. Butler on the governing body, and that the incumbent has done a “great job.”, Ms. MacRae said she is not aware of anyone else running on the Democratic side, although Ms. Fraga said Monday she would not be surprised if someone else got into the race., Fellow Democrat Amner Deleon has said he is considering running, but he could not be reached for comment Monday.

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