Republicans, Democrats Square Off For Campaign Season

Berkeley Town Hall (Photo by Jason Allentoff)

NOTE: This is updated from an earlier version.

BERKELEY – The Republican and Democratic candidates for the mayoral seat and the three available Township Council seats this year are all running unopposed in the June primary.

Republican Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. is running for his third full term, along with the three current GOP council members who were on his slate in previous elections.

Amato, Pine Tree Drive, is being challenged for the four-year mayoral term by Laura Shaw, Bay Boulevard. She is president of the Berkeley Democratic Club.

Amato says he is proud of the township GOP’s “fiscally-responsible, taxpayer-first approach,” and notes that the township has had zero municipal tax increase in three of the last five municipal budgets and has earned two bond rating upgrades.

“…an analysis was conducted by last year found that Berkeley Township has the 27th lowest overall taxes out of 565 New Jersey towns, and 2nd lowest in Ocean County,” he said.

He also points to the Town Center designation and the demolition of the Beachwood Shopping Mall as a “great start” and the township’s response to Superstorm Sandy as accomplishments.

“We’ve come a long way on this front, but bringing in more economic development to Route 9 is a priority,” Amato said. “I am never satisfied and neither are my colleagues on Township Council. We’re going to keep working at it.”

Amato, 50, is the director of Ocean County’s Printing and Graphics Department. He is also a commissioner on the Ocean County Utilities Authority. He previously served as a Township Council member and on the Central Regional Board of Education before he was elected mayor in 2011.

Shaw has 17 years of experience in municipal government, following a 20-year career in the private sector in sales, customer service and corporate training. She is a certified tax collector, a certified technical assistant to the construction official, and holds a certification as a government trainer by the Rutgers Center For Government Studies.

The three “at-large” council seats are up this year. Amato is running with incumbents John A. Bacchione, Albatross Point, L. Thomas Grosse, Jr., Southern Boulevard, and Keith A. Buscio, Osprey Lane. Bacchione and Grosse are both running for their third terms. Buscio was appointed to take the place of former Councilman Robert Ray, who stepped down in several years ago. Buscio was later elected to full terms.

Bacchione is a real estate agent. Grosse is a detective in the Toms River Police Department. Buscio works for the Central Regional Board of Education.

The Republican Township Council candidates are being challenged by Democratic newcomers Heather B. Walsh, Berkeley Avenue, Mario Ciasulli, Westport Drive, and Joshua Eckersley, Hayden Street.

Walsh has been a registered nurse for 25 years and has worked with children and families, including as a substitute school nurse in Berkeley Township. She currently serves on the Ocean County Council PTA Board of Directors.

Eckersley has lived in Bayville for 29 years. He is a math teacher at Central Regional Middle School. He is an active leader in the National Education Association as well as the New Jersey Education Association.

Ciasulli is a retired electrical engineer, with a bachelor’s degree from Newark College of Engineering and a master’s degree from Monmouth University. He lives in Silver Ridge Park North with his wife Nancy.

“I am honored and humbled to run with such a terrific group of people,” Shaw said. “We bring to this campaign such diverse perspectives and experiences and I feel so lucky to have running mates with such impressive educational credentials.”

The Democrats have vowed to be leaders and innovators of good government.

“We are all looking forward to getting out and listening to the residents of Berkeley Township and hearing their concerns and ideas for how to improve the quality of life all of our friends and neighbors in Berkeley Township, as well as the business community,” she said.

Berkeley municipal government was a Democrat bastion for decades, before Amato and his slate won in 2011. It has remained all-Republican since then.

Last Monday was the deadline for partisan candidates to file petitions for the June 4 primary election. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.