Lempert Defeats Woodbridge as Dems Sweep Princeton Race

Democratic Mayor-Elect Liz Lempert addresses the crowd gathered at the Princeton Democratic headquarters last night. Photo: Anna Savoia.

The Democrats swept the municipal race in Princeton Tuesday night as voters elected the first governing body to lead the new consolidated Princeton.

Princeton Township Committeewoman Liz Lempert defeated Princeton native and former Princeton Township Mayor Dick Woodbridge, winning just over 60 percent of the vote. The unofficial results from the clerk’s office do not include provisional or mail in ballots.

The Democratic council slate also won every seat. The Republicans ran one council candidate, Geoff Aton, in the hope that the strategy would give them a better chance at winning a seat in the town that is heavily dominated by Democrats. The last time a Republican won a seat in either Princeton was in the early 1990s.

About 75 people were at the Democratic headquarters on Nassau Street when Lempert made a brief victory speech.

“Thank you Princeton. I’m thrilled to be the mayor-elect. Congrats to the new Princeton council,” she said. “Also congratulations to Dick Woodbridge and Geoff Aton for running an really great campaign. It’s clear they ran because they care about Princeton. I hope they continue to volunteer and share their talents with the town. Now it’s time for us to join together. As mayor I will be there to listen to everybody and represent everybody.”

The past week has been tough for people in Princeton because of the storm, but Lempert said the town pulled together and the two Princetons ran a joint emergency operations center.

“Princeton worked as one. we did a lot of things right, and we learned a lot,” she said, adding that John Witherspoon Middle School is still open as a shelter.

Lempert, 43, said because of consolidation, Princeton has the opportunity to become a model for the state and save money while enhancing services.

“Working together, we can build a brighter, more sustainable future,” she said.

Woodbridge came over to the Democratic headquarters and gave Lempert a big hug when he saw her. “Congratulations. Aren’t we both glad it’s over?”

The 68-year old lawyer who has served in the governments of both Princetons ran an aggressive campaign when it came to distributing literature and lawn signs, and he received support from numerous Democrats. Woodbridge and Lempert had one debate. They never publicly challenged each other’s positions or criticized each other, and they didn’t differentiate themselves from one another much in terms of policies.  Woodbridge was  endorsed by a weekly print publication and the student newspaper at Princeton University, The Daily Princetonian.

Woodbridge told Planet Princeton he felt his campaign did everything it could to be successful.

“I can’t feel bad about what we did, because we did everything possible,” he said. “The results will mean a shift in my priorities. We have a family farm. I will probably work on that and a few other things.”

The spouses of both Lempert and Woodbridge work for Princeton University. Both said they felt it would not affect how they deal with university issues, and both said if elected, they would abstain on certain issues based on the advice of the town lawyer.

Lempert received 6,093 votes while Woodbridge had 3,939 votes. At the top of the ticket, Obama had 7,903 votes. The highest vote getter of the night in Princeton was U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, who received 7,964 votes.

The new Princeton will have the borough form of government with six members. The mayor serves a four-year term. The council members each serve a three-year term. The newly elected council members will draw straws to decide which two members are up for re-election in 2013, 2014 and 2015 so that terms are staggered.

Former Township Mayor Bernie Miller was the top vote getter in the council race, with 7,114 votes. Patrick Simon had 7,090 votes, Heather Howard had 6, 914 votes, Jo Butler had 6903 votes, Lance Liverman had 6,861 votes, and Jenny Crumiller had 6,807 votes. Geoff Aton had 3,533 votes.

Butler, Crumiller and Howard currently serve on the Princeton Borough Council. Liverman is a longtime Township Committeeman. Simon served on the joint consolidation commission.

“We ran as a team, we will serve as a team, we like each other and we want to work together,” Howard, a Princeton University employee, told the group gathered at Democratic headquarters.

Butler, an education consultant, told Planet Princeton she was thrilled to be elected to the new council. “We have some tough work ahead of us to realize the benefits of consolidation,” she said. “Obama said it best when talking about football. In politics, it’s not about winning elections. It’s making sure that you’re delivering for the folks who sent you.”