Council Candidate Loses Bid for Princeton Democratic Club Executive Board, Club Changes Endorsement Rules


Sue Nemeth, the former Princeton Township committeewoman who is running for a seat on the Princeton Council, lost her bid for a seat on the 2014 Princeton Community Democratic Organization executive board last night.

Thirteen candidates were vying for 12 at-large seats on the board.

Nemeth is running in the Democratic primary for Princeton Council this June with Council President Bernie Miller, her former Princeton Township Committee colleague. The pair will seek to unseat incumbent fellow Democrat Jo Butler. The slate is endorsed by Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, Councilman Lance Liverman and Councilwoman Heather Howard.

About 65 people attended the annual reorganization meeting of the club last night at the Suzanne Patterson Center. Members also elected officers for 2014.

Leaders of the organization encouraged candidates to step forward and run for the two council seats, leading former Princeton Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand to speak out against the unprecedented endorsement by the mayor and other council members of the slate, saying that the forming of a slate backed early on by the mayor and two other Democratic council members is intimidating to any potential new candidates who might be considering running.

The club also voted on a change to the endorsement process for candidates. A candidate must receive a minimum of 60 percent of the votes cast by members present and voting at the endorsement meeting to receive the club’s endorsement. Any candidate for local municipal office who gets less than 60 percent, but does get a vote of at least 40 percent of the ballots cast has the organization’s support (previously the rules stated they would appear in the same column as the Mercer County Democratic party endorsed candidates, and that the Democratic County Chair made the final decision on ballot placement).  The endorsement results will be communicated to the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee.

The election results:

President – Jon Durbin

1st Vice President – Owen O’Donnell

2nd Vice President – Margaret Griffin

Treasurer – David Cohen

Asst. Treasurer – Ginger Lennon

Recording Secretary – Peter Lindenfeld

Corresponding Secretary – Kathleen Cassidy

At-large: Jose Alcantara, Kip Cherry, Mary Clurman, Liz Cohen, Amner Deleon, Donald Dowd, Jim Floyd, Richard Meyer, Anne Neumann, Fay Reiter, Linda Schwimmer, Sheldon Sturges.


  1. Former Mayor Marchand also spoke out about the number of Princeton’s elected officials forced to recuse themselves because they are affiliated in one way or another with any large institution whose plans come before municipal government for approval.

    1. Back in the day, Mayor Barbara Boggs Sigmund was able to go about her business representing the Borough despite being married to a Princeton University Professor. Attempts by elected officials to do that now bring screams of ‘conflict of interest’. How quickly Princeton forgets its past in the interest of politics.

      1. Laws regarding public officials and the appearance of conflict of interest have become stricter since Mayor Sigmund’s time. The reason nobody “screamed” in the more recent past was because governing body and planning board members with ties to the University had been routinely and invariably recusing themselves without comment or question. The new council changed the policy.

        1. Well ‘Sammie’, Council adopted an official policy, which was appropriate, and that policy was for the municipal attorney to provide guidance on the law. The municipal attorney’s professional judgement was that being married to a University professor does not represent a conflict of interest. Certain interests considered their legal judgement to be superior to that of the municipal attorney. These interests also disregard the historical precedent of a Princeton Mayor successfully serving the town while being married to a University professor. Don’t talk to me about ‘laws’. This has nothing to do with laws, and everything to do with politics.

          1. I just don’t think it’s unreasonable to raise the issue and I don’t think it’s fair to accuse people who want to discuss it as having ill motives. All litigation risk could be eliminated by interpreting the laws strictly, as the Planning Board does. Why do you feel so strongly about it?

            1. Because it’s undemocratic to prevent the people who were elected by the citizens of Princeton from doing their jobs. Objectors have now undermined Council policy on conflict of interest, undermined elected officials, and undermined the municipal attorney with his decades of experience. This is not helpful for Princeton.

              1. Its not hypothetical SFB, its real and factual. Just 4 months after the Mayor took office – Princeton University promoted her husband to full professor – probably boosting his salary by at least $40 – 50,000. We won’t know the amount for sure because she will not disclose her tax returns from before she took office and this year after. It damages her reputation because we all wonder if Prof. Norman’s promotion was due to his deserving research or instead to influence the Mayor to look more kindly on the University. Both sides suffer from this compromised level of money changing hands in exchange for either 1) his work or 2) her greasing the wheels for PU, just like she tried to do by getting a back door liquor license for the Terra Momo group presently taking over the Dinky station. The stakes are much higher now than they were 30 years ago with Barbara Sigmund. The University has bought up more more of our community in the intervening 30 years and their net worth has put them in a position to be able to throw their weight and money around with little or no discretion. They can buy anything they want, including the Mayor.

                1. The state has also tightened up ethics rules since her tenure. Does the will of the voters come before the law? Arguing that the mayor or any other elected official should be able to do what ever they want because we elected them is a simplistic conclusion. If an official takes bribes should they be allowed to stay in office because the voters chose them? How she would deal with the conflict was unclear before the election and the other candidate had a spouse who worked for the u., so it is not like residents had a choice between candidates with or without ties.

            2. Don’t you love how SFB uses quotes around your name when SFB hides behind anonymity? What are SFB’s ties to the mayor, the university, or Avalon Bay for example? SFB is basically an apologist for them. Is SFB one of the mayor’s committee appointees or part of her pr machine? For all we know SFB is the mayor.

                1. It’s worth noting that the policy you describe above (and seem to think reasonable) came about, in part, because some observers “screamed” about the seemingly arbitrary way recusal rules were applied.

  2. Princeton used to be a “small” town and now, it has become too big and the issues difficult to handle. Neither the mayor nor Heather Howard have hidden their ties to PU. I believe they are both in the same position, one as the wife of the breadwinner of her family and the other as an employee. I don’t see that as the reason de the council to be divided; but, certainly, the petty fights will discourage anyone to run. I call republicans and independents to run, the council needs diversity, more debate, compromise and commitment; otherwise, it s not going to work. It is going to be like the house and the senate.

  3. Gee, I don’t understand. I used to be a “friend” of Sue Nemeth on Facebook. Why has she suddenly defriended me?

    To SFB, whoever you are, please know that modern Conflict of Interest Statutes in New Jersey put relationships of close family members in parity with actual relationships of principals. This is something our “experienced” municipal attorney does not seem to know or understand.

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