Manalapan: Candidates vie for GOP nomination

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GOP PRIMARY IS TUESDAY JUNE 3rd.

*** VOTE COLUMN 1***

for the true,

nominated Republican candidates

best suited to serve the people of Manalapan

Kalman, Steve, Ryan, William

From Left to Right: Kalman Budai, Steven Johnson, Ryan Green, William Garcia

BY KATHY BARATTA Staff Writer

Four residents are continuing their campaign to secure the Manalapan Republican Party

nomination in the June 3 primary and earn a place on the November general election ballot.

Two three-year terms on the Manalapan Township Committee will be up for grabs in the November general election.

The Manalapan Republican County Committee has nominated Ryan Green andWilliam Garcia to run for seats on the committee. They are being challenged in the primary by Kalman “Butch” Budai and Steven Johnson.

The Manalapan Democratic County Committee has nominated Township Committeewoman Michelle Roth, who is serving as Manalapan’s mayor this year, and Donald Holland to run for seats on the committee. Roth and Holland are unchallenged in the primary.

Individuals who are eligible to vote in the June 3 Republican primary are those people who are already registered as a Republican, or any unaffiliated individual who shows up at the polls on Election Day and registers as a Republican, according to Municipal Clerk Rose Ann Weeden.

Weeden said that after the primary election, people who switched from unaffiliated to Republican in order to vote in the primary may reregister as unaffiliated.

Polls will be open between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. June 3 at the municipality’s regular polling places.

Green, 28, is a 20-year resident of Manalapan. He is a school social worker with the Perth Amboy School District in Middlesex County. Green is a member of the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District Board of Education. If he wins the June 3 primary and is eventually elected to the Township Committee in November, he will have to resign from the school board.

Garcia, 42, is a project manager for a major financial institution in New York City. He has lived in Manalapan for two years.

Budai, 50, has been a resident of Manalapan for 12 years. He is the owner of a ceramic tile company. Prior to that he was a dispatcher for the Suburban Transit Bus Company.

Johnson, 54, is employed in the office automation business, He has been a Manalapan resident for 11 years. He said that in the past he has been responsible for managing a staff of 50 people and a business operating budget of $30 million.

•••

Budai and Johnson, who sought the Republican County Committee nomination but did not receive it, said they decided to mount a primary challenge and run for the Township Committee because Green and Garcia are, in their words, candidates “in name only.” They said neither man was a registered Republican until February.

Green and Garcia responded to that broadside.

According to Green, who grew up in Manalapan and was re-elected to a second term on the school board in April, he had always kept his political registration as unaffiliated because he felt doing so would “leave the politics out of the school board, where I don’t believe they belong.”

However, Green said he has always been a Republican “philosophically” – a term Garcia also embraced when told that was how Green had put it – and has always voted Republican.

Speaking about his voting record on the school board, Green said, “I think my voting record as a fiscal conservative while on the board speaks to my Republican mind-set.”

Garcia said when he moved to Manalapan from Queens, N.Y., in 2006, he registered as a Republican when he registered his motor vehicles and took care of other tasks. At least, he said he thought he had done so. He said it was not until he was looking into voting in the upcoming presidential election that he found out his voting registration had not been properly filed and he was listed in his voter affiliation as unaffiliated.

Garcia said he has been a registered Republican since he was 18. He said he explained all this to the selection committee at the time of his interview “and they were OK with it once it was explained.”

•••

All four men who are running for a seat on the public body that governs Manalapan were asked to name something they like about the community.

Garcia said it was the “good schools and spaciousness” that hooked him when he was looking for a New Jersey community to move his family into; that and the fact his wife had family in the area made it a marriage of suburban ideals and commuter convenience, given Manalapan’s proximity to Wall Street via public transportation.

Green said that given the fact that he grew up in Manalapan, he thought it would be almost impossible to instantly come up with a particular observation. Then he recounted something that happened in the past few weeks that reminded him how much he loves living in Manalapan and is looking forward to raising a family here.

He said shortly after moving into the home in the Yorktowne development where he now resides, there was a knock on the door. Green, who will be married in June, said he almost could not believe it, but “it was a neighbor from the block with an apple pie who just wanted to say ‘welcome to the neighborhood.’ It’s people like that who remind you what a great place Manalapan is to live.”

Johnson also mentioned the people who make up the community, but said there are other things he likes aboutManalapan.

“I like that we have Monmouth Battlefield State Park. I like that we have a fourtime championship cheerleading squad and I like that we have the western branch of theMonmouth County Library.”

Budai, who has been a member of several committees and boards, including the Manalapan Recreation Advisory Board, said some of the highlights of Manalapan are manifested in its recreation center and programs.

“Manalapan’s ball fields are state-ofthe art and the best in the county, if not the state,” he said, while also alluding to what he called the spirit of the community and its residents, particularly those who volunteer for municipal boards and committees.

“We have the best volunteers and our police department is second to none. It’s just the spirit of the community; it’s everybody from the youngsters to the seniors,” Budai said.

•••

Budai said he believes his experience as a business owner would serve him well as an elected official. He said his previous employment with Suburban Transit would give him an understanding of issues facing commuters and transportation companies.

Speaking about municipal finances, Budai said he would examine each municipal department to look at the staffing levels and the efficiency of the department with an eye on trimming costs.

Johnson said he would concentrate on finalizing plans for The Village at Manalapan, a 500,000-square-foot retail-commercial complex planned for the intersection of Millhurst Road and Route 33. The project received preliminary approval from the Planning Board more than a year ago but has never gotten off the ground for a variety of reasons.

“We should be concentrating on getting these ratables instead of spending a million bucks on a sports field,” Johnson said, alluding to the construction of an $800,000 artificial turf playing field of which he has been critical.

Garcia said his professional expertise would serve him well in reviewing a municipal budget “to see where our money is being spent and how we could make operations more efficient.”

However, said Garcia, “I would never advocate cuts that would adversely affect our safety and services.”

He said he would focus attention on the types of service contracts the township has on all of its equipment in an effort to see if there can be consolidation and savings.

“It is the little things that add up,” he said.

•••

All four candidates were asked why they should be the person Republicans choose on June 3 to run for a seat on the Township Committee in November.

“First and foremost, I am a husband and a father involved in community activities. I am one of my neighbors. I am not a politician,” Garcia said. “Bill Garcia was born a Republican and a fiscal conservative. My blood is Republican and I want smaller government.”

Green said his experience on the Manalapan Englishtown school board gives him a leg up because of that unique perspective and because the school district has been working with Manalapan to develop a shared services agreement. Green said he has been involved with the development of that agreement.

“I have the right experience at the right time,” he said, adding that one area he would examine as a member of the Township Committee would be the administration salaries for Manalapan’s summer recreation program, which he said have been increased for 2008.

Speaking about himself and Budai, Johnson said, “We are experienced, hardworking people dedicated to the town. That is who should be running in the general election.”

Budai said if he is elected to the Township Committee, he will not take municipal health benefits. He estimated that decision would save taxpayers between $15,000 and $17,000 per year.

Johnson also decried taxpayers paying for health benefits for the members of the governing body. He said Township Committee members should get their health insurance through their place of employment and not expect the taxpayers to pay for health benefits for what is basically a part-time job.

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