Republican Rau-Hatton runs against more than Mayer in Gloucester Township mayoral

Mayor Cindy Rau-Hatton
 
Gloucester Township Mayor Cindy Rau-Hatton already knew she had a Norcross target on her when she won election in 2006, and knew that bullseye got even bigger when the Council moved to change the township's May nonpartisan elections to partisan contests with a June primary and November general election.

With the passage of that ordinance, Gloucester's first Republican mayor now faces re-election on Nov. 3rd against former Assemblyman David Mayer (D-Gloucester Twp.) in a Camden County town of 70,000 where Democrats outnumber Republicans, 15,714 to 5,658.

A music teacher turned mayor, Rau-Hatton sizes up the race for the $52,000-per-year prize as a classic tale of machine versus grassroots politics, and envisions her victory as a chalk-up in the column of hard work over obscene wealth.

But Mayer sees a Rau-Hatton record of mismanagement.

"In 2006, I was outspent 10-1, and this time they will spend a million dollars against me," said Rau-Hatton. "The biggest difference is I represent people, not (South Jersey Democratic Party leader) George Norcross and Jon Corzines failed policies. When I was elected - on a mixed ticket - I gave back the mayor's car and distributed my home phone on my cards and on the town web site. My opponent is a fulltime lobbyist for Comcast and a Trenton insider."

"The mayor has submitted three budgets to council that would have increased taxes over 44%," said the Democratic challenger, who reads Rau-Hatton's win in 2006 as the unfortunate result of a third candidate in the race whose presence enabled the Republican to eke out a 600-vote win.

"Every time I have run for office, my opponents said I'm part of Norcross," added Mayer, "but what I'm part of is a party that believes in government efficiency. The mayor can't run on her record. Everytime she proposed a budget, the council has cut her proposed tax increases."

Now running an aggressive campaign at the top of a local ticket that includes three head-to-head council candidates, Rau-Hatton and Mayer both know the race inevitably has consequences in a gubernatorial election year.

Consistent with other New Jersey population centers, Gloucester Township turnout was above average last year for Obama v. McCain, with 28,148 voters participating in the general election, up from 22,844 in 2004. The years in between posted fewer than 15,000 votes in each general election.

This year, the South Jersey Democratic Organization, with its money on Mayer, not only wants to elect him and land control of the chief exective's chair in Gloucester Township, but turn back a challenge in the 4th District and demonstrate solid performance numbers for Corzine, who should be similarly helped by the fact that the City of Camden has its mayoral general election on Nov. 3rd.

The difference between Camden and Gloucester Township, however, is most observers of the New Jersey political scene have hit the snooze alarm on Dana Redd's mayoral candidacy in Camden, where she faces no serious opposition.

Notwithstanding the numbers edge for Democrats and a backlash against incumbents demonstrated in May and June local elections, Rau-Hatton versus Mayer contains the drama Camden lacks.

"I'm hearing a lot of support for (Chris) Christie," said the mayor, a proud backer of the GOP gubernatorial candidate. "People are fed up with Trenton. Even Democrats are saying they can't afford to live in New Jersey anymore. People are sick of it.

"The (6-1) Democrat council makes it extremely difficult to get anything done," added Rau-Hatton, who nonetheless celebrates Democratic Councilwoman Crystal Evans's decision to back Christie over Corzine. 

"If you want to change Gloucester, you have to change the council, which controls the budget, money, and contracts. Since day one, they have refused to sit at the table with me. They have blocked my initiatives. They think they're hurting me, but they're hurting the residents of our community."

Mayer said in his door-to-door tours, people rarely mention state issues.

"Folks know I'm a Democrat, and I don't hear alot of complaining," he said. "With Corzine, it's not a personal thing at all. In my 2005 Assembly race, there was a lot of anger. People were genuinely upset. I'm not hearing that this time.

"The governor's been down here, and certainly I would campaign with him," Mayer added.

The State Democratic Committee is letting South Jersey coordinate Mayer's campaign with the incumbent Democrats in the 4th District and the Corzine campaign, a fatal linkage, says Rau-Hatton.

While happy this year to be affiliated with Christie, she's running on her own roots, she says, and banking on her appeal with her town's 15,872 undeclared voters. 

"We have a broad base of support we have built for years," Rau-Hatton said. "We are not going to buy the election, we're going to earn the election. We are going to the earn respect and trust of the voters. This is about them, not a George Norcross chess game."

"Yes, the mayor is proud to run with Christie," said Mayer, "but the question, given her horrible fiscal record, is whether he'd be proud to run with her."

 

Max Pizarro is a PolitickerNJ.com Reporter and can be reached via email at max@politicsnj.com.

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