Incumbents David Cohen and Leticia Fraga secured the top two spots in July’s Democratic primary election, and are virtual shoo-ins for new terms on Princeton Council.
Fraga led the way with 40% of the vote. Cohen had 35%. Challenger Dina Shaw finished with 24%.
The election officially took place on July 7, but it took weeks for Mercer County to tally results due to the massive amounts of ballots submitted in the state’s first mostly mail-in election. Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollemi-Covello told Community News July 17 that, 10 days after the election, the county still had to count 8,000 outstanding provisional ballots. Results were not certified until a week later, on July 24.
More than 42% of Princeton Democrats cast a ballot, an extraordinarily high number for a primary election. It was more than double the participation rate in November 2019’s general election. The higher turnout could be attributed to the change to a primarily mail-in election. All registered Republicans and Democrats automatically received a mail-in ballot for the primary, due to an executive order signed by Gov. Phil Murphy aimed at preventing further spread of COVID-19.
Mark Freda, who is running unopposed for mayor, received 4,917 of the 4,954 votes cast in the mayoral primary. Freda—barring an unforeseen circumstance—will receive a four-year term as mayor, and replace Liz Lempert once her term expires at the end of 2020. Lempert has served as mayor of consolidated Princeton since 2012; she is the first person to hold that office.
The council incumbents provided statements to the Princeton Echo in mid-July, prior to the results being certified by the county. The candidate’s words follow:
This election cycle has been very different due to the pandemic. We were not able to do the traditional campaign outreach such as meet-and-greets and door to door canvassing. Also, I decided early on that, because so many in our community are struggling financially due to our economic crisis, my campaign would not fundraise nor spend money on paid outreach, and instead directed funds and potential donors to local COVID relief efforts. My team and I conducted our campaign outreach via social media, emails, letters to the editor written on my behalf, and through word of mouth. In the end, we honestly did not know if our grassroots outreach would be effective.
If the numbers hold up and I am given the opportunity to serve another term, I will be overjoyed. Current events have highlighted areas that we need to focus on and in some cases, expand. I am very hopeful that I will have the opportunity to carry on with my work on council so that I can continue my efforts to seek community-driven solutions that uphold our shared values, with a focus on equity, affordability, prosperity and inclusion.
Obviously, I am happy about the results and the vote of confidence it represents from the residents of Princeton. I heard that Princeton had almost 40% Democratic participation in the Primary, which is unheard of. If true, it may be a result of vote-by-mail participation being easier, but it could also reveal a high level of interest in the council race. I do think the stakes are high. With the mayor retiring, the many planning challenges facing us, and the economic headwinds we will be subject to along with the rest of the country, the hard work for council is just beginning. I will do my very best to live up to the faith Princeton Democrats voters put in me in this election.