Allen, Barry grateful for Harding support

Observer Tribune  Nov 20, 2018


We would like to extend our congratulations to Ms. (Nanette) DiTosto and Mr. (Tim) Jones on their election to the Harding Township Committee and to express our sincere gratitude to everyone who supported us and worked tirelessly throughout our campaign, especially our families whose eternal support is deeply appreciated.

We were truly humbled by the dozens of volunteers who hosted events in their homes, accompanied us while canvassing and campaigning at the post office, stuffed envelopes, made phone calls and donated to our campaign.

Amanda Richardson, the current chair of the Harding Township Democrats, deserves special recognition for her work organizing our group and barely coming up for air in the the weeks leading to the election. Special thanks also to Ayse Ergene, our student intern from Seton Hall University, whose competence, skills, willingness to help, kindness, patience, and dedication were invaluable.

We thank the League of Women Voters for coming to Harding with five volunteers to moderate a very successful and impartial candidates forum. Thank you also to the Harding Township Civic Association and the Church of Christ the King for hosting.

We were thrilled and honored to welcome Congressional candidate (now Congresswoman- Elect) Mikie Sherrill and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker to the New Vernon Post Office on the Saturday before the election. Thank you to the more than 100 Harding residents and neighbors who joined us that day and to the Harding Police Department who recognized our gathering for what it was, a peaceful citizen assembly. This is what democracy looks like.

Thank you to the poll workers, who were at town hall from the crack of dawn on election day to ensure all residents who so chose were able to cast their ballots. We were delighted and humbled to have earned nearly 800 votes this year (about 300 more than 2017). Our percentage increased from 33 percent in 2017 to 36 percent this year.

We were proud to do our part as well to support Congresswoman-elect Mikie Sherrill, who earned 45 percent of the vote in Harding Township.

It was a pleasure and an honor running for office in Kate’s hometown and Rhonda’s home of nearly 30 years. We look forward to remaining active, meeting more residents, and ensuring that the members of our community feel comfortable being and supporting Democrats. We are excited for Harding Township’s future.


Deer Ridge Drive


Meyersville Road

Harding Township

Election is sign to be optimistic in Harding

Observer Tribune  Nov 20, 2018


There is reason to be optimistic about the state of democracy in our community following last Tuesday’s election.

First and foremost, in Harding, in the larger Congressional District 11 and across the country, Americans came out in higher numbers to cast their ballot. Nearly 61 percent of Harding voters exercised their most precious right on Tuesday, as compared to the 43 percent who voted in Harding in the last midterm election. This uptick is a very welcome change from the 2014 midterm that marked the lowest nationwide voter participation in nearly 75 years.

With an open field after the retirement of U.S. Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen who represented the district since 1995, both the Republican and Democratic party competed for our votes. This is a good thing. It imbued a level of enthusiasm and engagement to the race and gave residents a fresh opportunity to assess and to weigh-in on the representation they seek from their congressional, county and local officials.

Allen and Barry will stimulate civic involvement in Harding

Letter to the Editor; Observer-Tribune; Oct 3, 2018


Let’s welcome two new faces on the Harding Township Committee: Allen and Barry.

I am writing in support of Rhonda Allen and Kate Barry for Harding Township Committee. Both women are long time residents spanning three generations here. Both have impressive educational backgrounds: Dr. Allen has a PhD in clinical psychology and Ms. Barry holds a masters in environment and sustainable development.

They are committed to Harding’s green spaces and low taxes.

Continue reading “Allen and Barry will stimulate civic involvement in Harding”

Vote Barry, Allen for diversity in Harding Township

Letter to the Editor; Observer-Tribune; 03-Oct-2018


I wholeheartedly support the candidacies of Kate Barry and Rhonda Allen for seats on the Harding Township Committee.

Kate and Rhonda are both well qualified and prepared to assume the role of Township Committee members.

Continue reading “Vote Barry, Allen for diversity in Harding Township”

Allen, Barry shocked by gun control silence in Harding

EDITOR: When it comes to common sense gun control, with the exception of one member, the Harding Township Committee has nothing to say.

Regardless as to where you stand on the issue, it would be hard to argue that gun violence is currently anything less than one of the most pressing and high profile issues in America right now. All across the country, students, survivors and their friends and families, politicians, and Americans of all political inclinations, are speaking passionately about an issue of national importance.

At the March 12, Township Committee meeting, Rhonda Allen asked the Township Committee if they had a position on gun control, including a ban on assault weapons and high magazine rounds, noting that it was two days before the one-month anniversary of the massacre in Parkland, Fla.

She informed the committee that many of our high school students were planning to participate in the 17-minute school walkout in remembrance of the lives lost to gun violence and urging Congress to enact stricter commonsense gun laws. Allen also invited the Township Committee to join her and other Harding residents at the March 24 “March for Our Lives” in Morristown.

We were astounded and very saddened by the lack of response. The only reply came from Nic Platt. He supports a ban on assault weapons and pointed to Antonin Scalia and former President Ronald Reagan, who both agreed that assault weapons were not protected under the Second Amendment.

While we greatly appreciate his response, we were appalled that no other member of the Township Committee cared to comment.

To be clear, Tim Jones, Nanette DiTosto, Dev Modi and Chris Yates did not even offer condolences to families who lost a loved one to gun violence. They chose not to acknowledge that gun deaths are unfortunate and sad, or that the massacres in Parkland, Newtown, Columbine, Las Vegas, Littleton, Orlando, and Charleston, among too many others, are horrific and tragic.

Not one of that group said children should always feel safe in their schools. Instead, they took the unfathomable route, choosing to say nothing.

We do not necessarily expect to agree with these four members (though we do not feel that gun violence should be a partisan issue), but we did expect an acknowledgement of the tragedies resulting from gun violence. Unfortunately, we were presented only with silence.

Deer Ridge Drive

Meyersville Road

Harding Township

Editor’s note: The writers were both unsuccessful Democratic candidates for the Harding Township  Committee.

The Present is Female: Campaigning for Democratic Candidates in an All-Republican Township

I found myself in the unlikely position earlier a week ago of calling up a hundred residents of my hometown of Harding, New Jersey, to advocate for two pro-choice Democratic female candidates for the township committee. Unlikely because Democrats rarely even run for—much less win—elected office in Harding. The center of ritzy horse country in Morris Country, Harding is a one-party town. There is an annual steak-and-lobster dinner for residents every June at the shingled Colonial firehouse, to give you an idea.

​So, it was with nervous anticipation that I dialed each number on my call-sheet.

“Hi my name is Katie Parker-Magyar, and I’m calling to urge you to vote tomorrow for Rhonda Allen and Kate Barry, the Democratic candidates for Harding Township Committee. Are you planning on voting tomorrow?”

At this moment, I would draw in breath, waiting for the response. Oftentimes, however, it was encouraging.

“Of course, I’m voting for Kate and Rhonda!” one man enthused. “I’ve been a Democrat in Harding for decades, and I thought I was the only one. This town needs this. The future is female, isn’t that what everyone is saying? It’s the next generation, the young kids like yourself, who are going to make things happen.”

Though he thought I was eighteen, (off by a decade), I was nonetheless encouraged—though slightly concerned the nervousness in my voice belied the gravitas of the message. Apparently, your voice rises an octave or two when you’re paranoid the person you’re calling is either a closeted conservative or a former high-school classmate. I’d reverted back to sounding like the student I’d been when I was growing up in this town.

“I never share my politics with anyone,” another woman informed me. “Kate and Rhonda did a wonderful job at that presentation last week, but I’m not going to tell you, or anyone else for that matter, who is getting my vote. I’ve never talked about politics in my life, and I’m not planning on starting now.”

I was polite on the line, but it was a response I’d heard a couple times—and each time it was disconcerting. Not sharing your opinion about who you’re voting for is part of the problem, particularly in a town where democracy isn’t even practiced. There are no Democratic representatives in Harding: the wealthy enclave is a haven for conservatives, and is the hometown of Republican Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. To be liberal is to stand out.

But, you have to be uncomfortable for change to be made. To be apolitical these days is an exercise in privilege: you’re so insulated and protected by your position in society that it doesn’t matter who wins or loses—you’re always winning.

But local protest affects national change, something I experienced when I first found myself sitting at a Harding Township Democrats meeting this spring. Established post-Trump, the committee aimed to put two Democratic women on the township committee in this Republican stronghold within the heart of Frelinghuysen territory.

Looking around the room, I was inspired by the size of the crowd, and the breadth of their knowledge about local and national issues.

“I never knew there were so many Democrats in Harding,” the lady in pearls and loafers beside me kept commenting, in between impassioned rants about the hometown Congressman’s largely Trump-lockstep voting record.

The crowd was predominantly women, though there were men present as well, and all ages were represented. Reproductive rights, climate change, immigration policy was debated heatedly for hours (way past many of these ladies’ bedtime).

Most impressive? One of the candidates, Kate Barry, is the daughter of a prominent former Republican assemblyman—and still in her early thirties. Kate is a local Realtor in town, but also takes care of local residents’ horses on the side, which people joked gave her a natural advantage in horse country. Kate also owns a donkey, which was  woefully under-used, in my opinion, in the campaign.

The people in the room had long felt like the sole Democrats in a town full of Republicans, and now they had found a means of channeling their energy. The passion in the room, the commitment to engendering change, was contagious. I witnessed a movement starting in my conservative hometown, and knew it would persevere regardless of whether our candidates succeeded in this first election.

The Republicans, naturally, were furious. A pamphlet handed out by the opposition warned of “tax and spend” liberals who would “destroy the fabric”!of our town.

“Why do you have to do this?” one local Republican politician asked my father at a dinner party. He’d been involved with Kate and Rhonda’s campaign from its inception.

“Why do we have to do what?” he asked.

“Why do you need to run?

As in: Why does there need to be a two-party system? Who cares? He was irritated that Democrats thought they should even run for elected office in a Republican stronghold like Harding and mystified by witnessing democracy in action.

On election day, the polling headquarters at the library was packed. The turnout was huge (on both sides). This is what Democracy looks like, I thought.

Outside in the parking lot, cars were queued up to leave. One man shouted in my direction and rolled down the window of his BMW to wave me over to him. I was wearing my Harding Democrats pin.

“I voted for you guys,” he said. “I marked off Democrat up and down the board. I’m a lifelong Republican, but I wanted to stick it to my party, it’s bullshit.”

The outcome? Kate and Rhonda won 33% of the vote, double the 17% Democratic registration in the town. The strength of the numbers gained larger recognition, even being mentioned by Brian Lehrer on NPR. We may not have won in Harding, but Democrats won local races in five nearby townships, including Governor Christie’s hometown of Mendham Township.

This is the revolution, and it is being held in small towns across the country. You will be taking a front-row seat this holiday season, whether you like it or not. When you sit down at the dinner table, speak up. That is what democracy looks like.

Katherine is a weekly columnist for Roar. A freelance writer and editor based in New York City, she writes frequently about culture, political and social issues, literature, and travel. She received her master’s degree from The New School, with honors in nonfiction writing. Follow her work at

Democratic women make big strides in Mendhams, Chesters, Harding

By PHIL GARBER Observer-Tribune Managing Editor 11.13.17

Women and Democrats have long been a difficult combination when it comes to toppling dominant Republicans in area elections.

That didn’t deter Kris Grasso, Rachel Marlowe, Roni Fernandez, Rhonda Allen, Kate Barry, Amalia Duarte, Stacy Strum, Darcy Draeger, Kristin Berkinsky and Laura Montenegro who all ran for office in the Nov. 7 general election.

Only Duarte won her race for a three-year post on the Mendham Township Committee but each of the candidates had respectable vote totals and each said they made a difference in their towns. Not coincidentally, Duarte also was the only woman who did not face off against an incumbent.

They were among a record crop of women Democrats who were on the ballot for municipal offices.

“We got the door open,” said Fernandez who ran for a three-year seat in Washington Township. “Our voice is getting louder.”

The gubernatorial victory of Democrat Phil Murphy over Republican Kim Guadagno along with the election of 23 state senate seats and 56 assembly seats and the election of a Democratic governor and many state legislative posts in Virginia are considered the nation’s first major repudiations of the policies of Republican President Donald Trump. It remained unclear if the voter turnouts for Democrats in local elections was a reflection of the same anger.

The surge in Democrats in the county played out on a gubernatorial level as Republicans gave far less support to Guadagno than they did for Chris Christie in 2013. In the latest contest, 53.13 percent of Morris County voters went for Guadagno and 44.98 percent voted for Murphy.

In 2013, Republican Christie gained 70 percent of the votes in Morris County, compared with just 28.19 percent for Democrat Barbara Buono.

Grasso and Rachel Marlowe joined with fellow Democrats Matt Fink and Jim Buell to challenge for four seats on the Mount Olive Township Council.

Fernandez ran for the Township Committee in Washington Township. Allen and Kate Barry ran in the GOP stronghold of Harding Township.

Stacy Strum ran in Chester and Darcy Draeger was a candidate for the Chester Township Council. And in Mendham, Democrats Kristin Berkinsky and Laura Montenegro were on the ballot.

In all, 11 Democrats won seats this year around Morris County that were formerly held by the Republicans. The last time Democrats won in the double digits was in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.

Last year, the Democrats won nine seats. In 2015, they won one and in 2014, they lost a seat.

“A lot of candidates came out after Donald Trump won,” said Chip Robinson, chair of the Morris County Democratic Committee. “They were banging down the doors to get involved.”

In Mount Olive, Robinson said there was essentially no functioning Democratic Committee. That also changed with the Trump election and the work of the new township Democratic chairwoman, Shelly Morningstar.

“There has been a large shift of well-educated women away from Donald Trump. As long as Donald Trump is in the White House, it will continue to accelerate,” Robinson said.

Other Democratic women elected around the county included Kathy Wilson in Morris Township; Carmela Vitale was re-elected in Madison; Emily Peterson and Janice McCarthy were elected in Parsippany; and Edina Renfro Michel was elected in Boonton.

Mendham Township

Duarte gained 1,198 votes or 54.31 percent of the vote compared with Republican Rick Blood who got 1,008 votes or 45.69 percent.

She said she won because of the issues and because enough voters ignored party labels and voted for her. Her support was enough to overcome a last minute letter from four GOP Township Committee members backing Flood. They included Mayor Diana Orben Brown, Frank Cioppettini, Chris Baumann and Rich Diegnan Jr. Republican Committeeman Warren Gisser did not sign the letter.

“The reason I won is I spoke to local issues that resonated across the political spectrum, including recreation, shared services and open government,” Duarte said. “I worked extremely hard.”

Washington Township

Fernandez picked up 2,313 votes or 39.66 percent of the vote. Incumbent Matthew Murello won 3,517 votes or 60.31 percent.

Fernandez was the first woman Democrat to ever run for office in the township. The last women on the Township Committee were both Republicans, Kim Ball Kaiser and Margaret Nordstrom, who served at the turn

of the century. Kevin Nedd was on the committee as an independent although he ran for re-election as a Democrat in 2008 and lost.

“I absolutely wanted to win,” Fernandez said. “We had a top notch campaign and got 40 percent of the vote. I didn’t win but I don’t feel like we lost.”

Like the other women, Fernandez said she was prompted to consider running after the Trump election.

She said the Republicans told voters that a vote for the Democrats and Murphy would mean higher taxes and that Murphy would make New Jersey a sanctuary state.

“There is definitely racism here,” Fernandez said. “Some people are just ignorant.”

Fernandez doesn’t know if she’ll run again but said she wants to work against the “huge issues” of opioid abuse and bullying.

Harding Township

Observers could not remember the last time, if ever, a Democrat served on the Harding Township Committee,let alone a Democratic woman. Asked why

so many women Democrats and women ran this year, Allen had four words: “Donald Trump. One-hundred percent.”

“Someone’s got to do something,” said Allen. “I worked hard for Hillary (Clinton) and I was sickened on how they attacked her.”

Allen said her anger has been further generated by the continuing accusations of sexual assault around the country.

“We can’t stop,” Allen said.

She said she was surprised at the level of anger directed at her and her running mate in Harding.

She specifically took issue with a letter to the editor from Township Committeeman Nicholas Platt, in which he referred to the Democrats as “remarkably transparent, in fact invisible.”

At a debate between the Democrats and Republicans, one older man stood and shouted at the Democrats demanding to know how they thought they had the right to run for the Township Committee when they

had not participated on any local boards. His angry comments were met with boos from some audience members.

Meanwhile, Allen recalled, the debate moderator, ironically a woman, continually referred to them as “girls” until members of the 60-member audience objected.

“Enough is enough,” said Allen.

She said she hasn’t decided if she’ll run again but said she and Barry made a difference.

“I think we made an impact by just being on the ballot,” she said.

Allen said she hopes the energy continues through next year to defeat 12-term congressman, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-11.

“A lot of people are horrified at how he’s aligning to Trump,” Allen said.

Allen got 487 votes or 16.71 percent and her running mate, Kate Barry won 482 votes or 16.54 percent. Incumbent Republican Dev Modi won 973 votes or 33.38 percent and Christopher yates got 969 or 33.24 percent.


Mendham was a close contest for two, three-year seats on the Borough Council

Democrats Kristin Berkinsky got 823 votes or 22.38 percent and her running mate, Laura Montenegro collected 831 votes or 22.59 percent for two. They were edged out by incumbent Republicans John W. Andrews with 1,041 votes or 28.3 percent and Brad Badal with 979 votes or 26.62 percent.

In Chester, Democrat Stacy Strum was competitive in her race for one of two, three-year Borough Council seats. Strum got 237 votes or 26.93 percent while Republican incumbents Timothy Iversen won 296 votes or 33.64 percent and Gary W. Marshuetz had 342 votes or 38.86 percent.

In the race for two, three-year seats on the Chester Township Council, Democrat Darcy Draeger was competitive with 931 votes or 22.65 percent. Republicans Derek Moore had 1,506 votes or 36.64 percent and Michael Inganamort won 1,651 votes or 40.17 percent.