UNION, NJ — A former school board member and a previous independent candidate will together challenge two incumbent members for the Democratic nominations for township committee in the June primary.
Former school board president Ronnie McDowell and Jason Krychiw, who has made two unsuccessful bids for township committee as an independent, will run on the same ticket against incumbents Michele Delisfort and Manuel Figueiredo, who are seeking re-election together.
Krychiw and McDowell’s announcement for the Democratic ticket is a bit of an upset. Krychiw has been a steadfast independent for the last two years, while McDowell campaigned on keeping funding from political parties out of Union Board of Education elections when he ran for that board.
Delisfort, who has served on the township committee since 2016, and Figueiredo, a committee member since 2009, both have the backing of the township’s Democratic Party, according to Figueiredo. They said they are “not Democrats out of political convenience.”
“The fact is, our opponents for township committee are a threat to the Democratic ideals we all hold so dear, going so far as to already ask Republicans to switch their party affiliation to vote in our Democratic primary,” Delisfort and Figueiredo said in a March 27 press release. “We are not Democrats out of political convenience and we will fight every day to make sure these dirty tricks do not work.”
Krychiw said he has told some registered Republicans how to change their party affiliation to cast a ballot in the closed primaries for his ticket, but his platform hasn’t changed since he ran as an independent. Krychiw has campaigned on issues such as a direct election of mayor in town, fixing roads, and reducing payment in lieu of taxes — or PILOTs — for developers.
“Those aren’t partisan issues to me,” he said in a March 27 phone interview. “My policy and beliefs don’t change because there’s an ‘I’ or a ‘D’ next to my name on the ballot.”
Krychiw said he is running as a Democrat to get a head start on campaigning and put his name on a ballot in June rather than November. Instead of starting his campaign after the primary, he can begin now.
However, if Krychiw and McDowell do not win in June as Democrats, they cannot run as independents in the November election. Independent petitions are due before the polls close June 5, the same day as the primary.
McDowell said he’s known Krychiw for years and the two have a “unified platform.” The former school board president said that if elected, he would like to work closely with the school board, which influences local property tax rates.
“If we were to win the primary, would the Democratic party support Jason and I?” McDowell asked rhetorically. “That would be something interesting to see. How would they handle that?”
He also said that, if he were ever to run for school board again, he would want to run a nonpartisan campaign without Democratic or Republican support.
Delisfort and and Figueiredo said that during their tenure they’ve worked to keep streets clean, neighborhoods safe and expand parks and recreation for children. In a statement, both noted that their long-standing work with the Democratic Party at the local level and beyond will also help other traditional Democrats get elected.
“We also strongly believe in the importance of bringing out Democratic voters from throughout the Township of Union to ensure Sen. Menendez and Rep. Payne can continue the tremendous work they have accomplished for township families and that Tom Malinowski be elected to join that fight,” they said in a joint statement.
“We know the critical importance of making sure Democrats are elected to the freeholder board for the benefit of our township’s seniors and our middle-class families, and will be working hard towards that end as well.”
Township clerk officials, meanwhile, said that Justin Versoza and Karen Slawson filed petitions to run as Republicans in the upcoming June primary.