Democrat Amanda Richardson runs for seat on Harding Township Committee

Observer Tribune 20-March-2019

Amanda Richardson, shown with her husband, Matt, and son, Henry.

HARDING TWP. – Amanda Richardson, chairwoman of the Harding Township Democratic Committee, is running for a three-year seat on the Township Committee.

The Woodland Road resident will be on the ballot for the Tuesday, June 4, primary and the general election ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Richardson plans to run in the November general election against GOP Committeeman Nicolas Platt. Platt said he plans to run for what would be his fourth term on the Township Committee. No other candidates have announced their intentions to date. The deadline for ling to run in the primary is Monday, April 1.

Platt was chosen by the then-Township Committee to replace Republican Jim Rybka, who resigned abruptly in 2009. Platt then ran for election, and was elected to another two, three- year terms.

Richardson said in a statement that she has received the Democratic committee’s unanimous endorsement at a meeting last Wednesday night.

“Harding is an oasis in New Jersey: a small-town community that has kept its character with a commitment to preserving open space and keeping taxes low,” Richardson said. “This is what brought my family here over 30 years ago and it is why I returned to Harding with my husband to raise our family here.

“Growing up in this idyllic place, with the Great Swamp in my backyard, inspired my work on land and resource rights. As I embark on this campaign and as a Township Committee member, I pledge to preserve Harding’s rural character, to maintain its low taxes and scal discipline, and to move forward with a respectful campaign and healthy debate focused on the issues,” she said

Richardson and her husband, Matt Eckman, have a son, Henry, 2.

She is a lawyer, having graduated from Amherst College and Columbia University Law School. She founded a non-profit organization, Resource Equity (, that is focused on promoting women’s rights to land and resources in developing countries.

Richardson was elected to the Democratic County Committee in 2016 and quickly became a leader of the resurgent Harding Township Democratic Committee that emerged as part of the anti-Trump blue wave that culminated in the election of Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-11, in November.

Richardson was elected vice chair of the Harding Township Democratic Organization in January 2017 and was elected chair last June. She managed the unsuccessful Township Committee campaigns of Rhonda Allen and Kate Barry in 2017 and 2018.

“The candidacies of Rhonda and Kate highlighted the benefits of bi-partisan debate and representation in the township and brought a voice to those in Harding who do not currently feel represented,” Richardson said. “With open debate and a healthy competition of ideas from varying perspectives, democracy thrives. I look forward to engaging in a vigorous dialogue on the complex issues facing our community in the years ahead.

“We are a small town with big issues: implementation of our affordable housing obligation, the Verizon cell tower at the recycling center, the future of Glen Alpin, and, inevitably, others that will likely arise in the future.

“We need to do everything we can to engage all of our neighbors in the decisions of the Township Committee that can affect their daily lives and their property values. As a member of the Township Committee, I will bring my professional experience and education to discharge my responsibilities.

“As a co-founder of my non-prot organization, I have experience running a business, from budgeting and managing contractors and employees, to negotiating contracts and implementing major projects. As a lawyer, I have experience parsing and crafting laws, regulations, and resolutions.

“Equally important for my role on the Township Committee, I have extensive experience working with and listening to communities to help bring them the assistance they most need,” she said.

Richardson said Harding is changing politically.

“Growing up, I viewed Harding as a Republican town. Today, the political spectrum is broader, as evidenced by the results of the 2018 election. I have been pleasantly surprised by how many people have become very active participants in not only our Democratic Committee, but also as enthusiastic citizens in other groups such as the Harding Non-Partisans,” Richardson said.

“Harding residents are more engaged and aware of the need for transparency and bipartisanship as key components to successful local government

“Positive change has begun. During their campaign, Kate (Barry) and Rhonda (Allen) provided data showing the lack of broad representation on the township boards and commissions. Kate has since been appointed to the Environmental Commission, which has increased representation to two Democrats.

“One of the goals of my campaign is to continue push for more inclusion and transparency as vacancies on these commissions and boards are filled,” she said.

Barry is Richardson’s campaign manager and Molly Riley is treasurer.

“As Harding evolves, bringing together long-time residents and relative newcomers, I am committed to ensuring that all residents feel heard and represented. It is at the local level that many of the decisions that most aect our lives are made,” Richardson said. “These are not partisan issues. We need to move our Township Committee to a more collaborative, open, and transparent process by taking steps beyond the required legal notices and agenda postings to ensure eective communication and understanding among all of our residents. Giving all residents the information they need to evaluate how decisions aect them and the opportunity to be heard before those decisions are made would be a major focus of my tenure on the committee.”

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.

Harding Dems cry foul over GOP mailer

Observer-Tribune Article 7-Nov-2017

HARDING TWP. -Democrats and Republicans clashed over an 11th hour mailing that claims the Democratic candidates for Township Committee would support construction of hundreds of units of a ordable housing in town.

The campaign letter, signed by GOP Township Committee members Chris Yates and Dev Modi who are seeking re-election, was mailed to residents over the weekend.

Both are facing challenges to their seats in today’s election from Democrats Rhonda Allen and Kate Barry.

The letter deals with issues such as taxes, Glen Alpin, open space and a ordable housing. The a ordable housing section is where the rub has arisen.

In the letter, Modi and Yates write that “No issue will have a great future impact on Harding than the state-mandated a ordable housing requirement.

“The stakes are very high. Improperly handled, it could destroy Harding. Fair Share Housing, our adversary in the litigation over this issue, has demanded that Harding provide 300 afordable housing units and that the entire township be rezoned for high density housing, a prospect that would invite developers to build apartment blocks throughout our town,” the letter states.

“We are in litigation because we oppose this and are ghting for Harding. Our opponents have expressed support for the Fair Share Housing objectives,” the letter states.

In a statement issued Monday, Amanda Richardson, campaign manager for Allen and Barry, said the statements were lies.

“We are proud of the positive campaign that Rhonda and Kate have run, making an a rmative case for the bene ts of a two- party system, civil discourse, inclusion and open government,” said Richardson.

“Our campaign mailing to Harding voters last week was completely positive in keeping with the civility that has been and should be a core value of our close-knit community,” she said.

“That is why it was so disheartening to see Yates and Modi resort not only to negative campaigning, but to despicable scare tactics and spreading lies about our candidates that are easily disproven and to stubbornly stick to those untruths when confronted by residents at the post o ce on Saturday.

“Yates and Modi untruthfully assert that we ‘support Fair Share Housing’s objectives” to build “300 a ordable housing units and that the entire town be rezoned for high density housing, a prospect that would invite developers to build apartment blocks throughout our town.’

“They know this to be false. They were sitting only ve feet away during the Oct. 18 debate when Kate Barry clearly explained that we believe that Harding’s allotment can and should be negotiated down. More than 60 township residents attended and heard her,” Richardson said.

Harding Democrats Denounce Untruthful Claims by Republican Candidates

Allen and Barry for Township Committee
Press Release, November 6, 2017
HARDING TWP. — Amanda Richardson, campaign manager for Democratic Township Committee candidates Rhonda Allen and Kate Barry, today demanded that Mayor Chris Yates and Township Committee member Dev Modi retract and apologize for untruthful statements made in a campaign flier they signed, mailed and were personally distributing to Harding voters this weekend.
“We are proud of the positive campaign that Rhonda and Kate have run, making an affirmative case for the benefits of a two-party system, civil discourse, inclusion and open government,” said Richardson.
“Our campaign mailing to Harding voters last week was completely positive in keeping with the civility that has been and should be a core value of our close-knit community,” she said. “That is why it was so disheartening to see Yates and Modi resort not only to negative campaigning, but to despicable scare tactics and spreading lies about our candidates that are easily disproven — and to stubbornly stick to those  untruths when confronted by residents at the post office on Saturday.”
“Yates and Modi untruthfully assert that we ‘support Fair Share Housing’s objectives’ to build ‘300 affordable housing units and that the entire town be rezoned for high density housing, a prospect that would invite developers to build apartment blocks throughout our town.’ They know this to be false. They were sitting only five feet away during the October 18 debate when Kate Barry clearly explained that we believe that Harding’s allotment can and should be negotiated down. More than sixty Township residents attended and heard her,” Richardson said.
Long Hill Township was able to cut its affordable housing number by about 75% by getting credit for units already built and by pointing out that part of their town — like our Township — is located in the Great Swamp or on wetlands, she noted.
“What Kate and Rhonda did say is that we should make sure that any affordable housing built meets the needs of our own seniors and millennials, which we believe is important,” Richardson said.
“As to the Glen Alpin diversion, our candidates said the strategy was worth pursuing, but it was not a sure thing, and they have called for a referendum to go to Township voters before any irrevocable decision is made by the Township Committee to move forward on demolition of this historic house,” she said.
“Yates and Modi go on to assert that our candidates’ alleged ‘support of Fair Share  Housing’s objectives and their lack of support for resolving the Glen Alpin issue would lead to significant expenditures and tax increases.’ It is reprehensible that they would make false claims about our positions on affordable housing and Glen Alpin, and then use those falsehoods to assert that our candidates are in favor of raising taxes. Keeping Harding’s property taxes low is one of our principal campaign promises,” she said.

“Yates and Modi go on to assert that our candidates ‘have taken positions that threaten to destroy the very fabric of our town.’ Nothing could further from the truth. Kate and Rhonda live and work here, and the Barry and Allen families have been part of the fabric of our town for a combined 120 years — more than five times as long as the Republicans they are running against,” Richardson said.

“Yates and Modi owe the voters an apology for putting out such an untruthful press release. Putting out a false press release when it is too late for us to respond with a mailing to voters setting the record straight may win them a few extra votes in the short run, but it will affect their credibility in the long run. If we can’t trust them to be honest during the campaign, how can we trust them in office?” she asked. “A false attack like this is the best argument for why we also need Democrats or independents as watchdogs on the Township Committee. It is negative campaign scare tactics like this that ‘threaten to destroy the very fabric of our town.'”

Two Dems seek to join all-GOP Township Committee in Hardin

  • By MIKE CONDON Staff Writer for Observer Tribune
 HARDING TWP. – With a motto of “Shared Values, Fresh Perspective,” two Democratic candidates are seeking two, three-year terms on the Township Committee.

If either of the two were successful, it would mark the first time a Democrat has ever served on the Township Committee in at least the past 45 years.

The two, Kate Barry and Rhonda Allen, are vying against GOP incumbents Chris Yates, the current mayor, and Committeeman Dev Modi in the Tuesday, Nov. 7 general election.