PRINCETON: Council members Howard, Liverman non-committal on re-election plans

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Princeton Councilman Lance Liverman.

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Democratic Councilmembers Heather H. Howard and Lance Liverman were noncommittal this week about whether they intend to run for re-election in 2018, even though the leader of the Princeton Democratic Party said she assumes they will try for another term.
“I really enjoy serving and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved,” Howard said Wednesday when asked about her intentions. “But I don’t think people want electioneering now.”
Liverman said Thursday that he doesn’t know if he’ll be a candidate, but he said he would “have a better idea next week.”
“This takes a lot of my time,” he said, “and not that I don’t mind doing it. But I’m behind on other things.”
In January, Liverman will begin his 15th year in municipal government, a tenure that started on the Township Committee and continued on the council of the consolidated municipality. He is the only Princeton native on the governing body, but he has made no secret of his plan to retire to North Carolina after his youngest daughter finishes high school.
In Howard’s case, she was elected in 2011 to the Borough Council, served a year there and, like Liverman, was elected in 2012 to serve on the council of the consolidated Princeton.
She is a former state commissioner of health and senior services, in the administration of Gov. Jon Corzine. Most recently, she was tapped to serve on the transition team of Gov.-elect Phil Murphy, but she has ruled out working in the Murphy administration as a member of the Democrat’s cabinet.
Even though she and Liverman have not announced what they plan to do, the leader of the Princeton Democratic Party said Thursday that she believes at this point that the two incumbents plan to get into the race.
“I’m assuming that both of them are going to run,” said Scotia W. MacRae, the party chairwoman, who added Howard and Liverman have not shared their plans with her. “And I don’t think there’s any opposition to both of them running. So I don’t see any groundswell for different people.
“From all indications,” MacRae said, “it seems like they are going to be still in the mix next year, that they’re talking in ways that indicate they’re not considering stepping down.”
Though the council election is still a ways away, the political calendar in Princeton works backward, so that all the important decisions — from who’s running to who gets the critical endorsement of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization, the party club — happen well before voters go to the polls. And with the primary serving as the de facto general election in the heavily Democratic town, the race for Princeton Council is decided before the start of summer.
From the time that the consolidation of the borough and the township took effect in January 2013, the face of the governing body has changed, albeit slowly. Councilman Patrick Simon declined to seek re-election in 2016, while Council members Jo S. Butler and Bernard P. Miller declined to run this year.
In 2018, the governing body will welcome new members David Cohen and Leticia Fraga, the winners of the uncontested council race in November.
MacRae said the local party is looking to cultivate people to run for office, with an eye toward minority candidates “who would be interested in running at some point,” in her words.
“That’s important because we want people who reflect the population of Princeton,” she said. “I feel that both the Hispanic and African-American communities strongly feel that they’ve been under-represented on the Princeton Council for many years. And I think we want to cultivate people in order to make sure to address that issue.”
Fraga will be the first Latina to serve in municipal government in Princeton when she takes office in January.