Democrats take stronghold on Lawrence Township Council

Scott Jacobs
Plantlife start to turn with the fall weather at Colonial Lake Park in Lawrence Township on Nov 2.

The Lawrence Township Council will remain firmly in Democratic hands with the election of two incumbent council members and a newcomer in the Nov. 5 general election.

Democratic council members Cathleen M. Lewis and Michael S. Powers and their running mate, John Ryan, beat back a challenge from Republican Party nominees Robert T. Pluta, P.J. Vinch III and Joseph A. Vinch.

Lewis was the top vote-getter with 4,171 votes. Powers received 4,156 votes and Ryan collected  4,055 votes.

Pluta received 2,368 votes, P.J. Vinch recorded 1,801 votes and Joseph A. Vinch picked up 1,810 votes.

The results are unofficial and have not been certified by the Mercer County clerk.

Lewis, Powers and Ryan and their supporters waited for the results in a back room at American Legion Post 458 in the Brunswick Circle.

There was tension as the first results were phoned into the campaign headquarters and it seemed that the election would be close. But as more results trickled in and it appeared that the Democrats would hang on to their seats, the tension eased.

About an hour into the vote-tallying, campaign manager Erik Puliti said, “I’m going to call it – Powers, Lewis and Ryan.”

“This is my last act as campaign manager. It would be safe to say we have control of the council for another four years,” Puliti said. There are five Democrats on the Lawrence Township Council.

“Victory. Victory,” an elated Ryan said, raising his arms in the air.

Ryan, who is a political newcomer, thanked everyone “for going out there and battling for it.”

“I look forward to serving everyone in Lawrence Township – all the residents,” Ryan said.

Powers said it was a “total team effort.” He thanked Puliti for navigating the candidates through the campaign.

“It was like herding cats,” Powers said as the supporters gave a round of applause to Puliti.

Lewis also thanked their supporters.

“I think the thing that I am most excited about is, we talked about the good things that we did and that the town has the potential to be. The numbers (votes) are real. They are validation of the hard work the council has done,” Lewis said.

“We can always do things better and find ways to do them better in an innovative way. That’s the message that will resonate from this election,” Lewis said.

A few blocks away at Pluta’s Leonardo II’s restaurant where the Republican candidates had gathered, the mood was more subdued.

Joseph Vinch told the crowd that he truly appreciated their support.

“There will be another fight in two years. I might run in two years,” Joseph Vinch said.

The next Township Council election is in 2021.

P.J. Vinch III said it was a pleasure to run for office with his son, Joseph Vinch, and that’s the reason he became involved.

“So many people came out and worked for us. I won’t forget them. I will be a voice for them,” he said.

Pluta said it is hard to run for office as a Republican in a town where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by almost 3:1. The Democrats have the luxury of larger numbers, he said.

In the 2015 election, which was the last time that three Lawrence Township Council seats were up for grabs, the Democrats ran unopposed, Pluta said. There were no Republican candidates.

In the 2017 election, Pluta said he was the only Republican candidate for the two open seats.

Nevertheless, Pluta said he was proud of the 2019 campaign and had no regrets.

Lawrence Township Republican Club President Falk Engel also acknowledged the deficit in the number of registered Republicans in Lawrence.

Engel praised the three candidates for their hard work. As a former Republican candidate for the council, “I’ve been there, done that,” he said.

“We are going to continue to build this [Republican] organization. We are moving in the right direction. We are moving forward, not back,” Engel said.