UNION COUNTY — Marc Krauss is no stranger to running for an elected seat or standing up for what he believes is right. After a determined campaign in 2009, he won a seat on the Springfield Township Committee and served a three-year term. Now he has thrown his hat in the ring in the Union County Freeholder race, hoping to do what no other Republican has done in the last 15 years: win one of the three open seats.
To say Krauss is determined once again would be an understatement. As a retired Army officer with 21 years of honorable active duty military service that included two tours of service in Iraq, he clearly understands what it take to get the job done.
“I still live by the Army values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor and Integrity and Personal Courage, or LEADERSHIP,” Krauss said, pointing out these attributes are not mutually exclusive to the Army and he will apply them when elected to the freeholder board.
“I served our country, I served my community and now I want to serve you as a member of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders,” he added, noting that he believes it is time to downsize and re-evaluate county government by lowering taxes and maintaining essential services.
Krauss finds it hard to believe that it has been 18 years since the last Republican was elected to the board, 15 since they served.
“So for the last 15 years there has been no one to keep an eye on them from the inside,” he said, mentioning that the county “is governed by one party solely responsible for raising your taxes over 75 percent since 1998.”
Krauss also takes issue with the fact that the current freeholders all come from the eastern part of the county, leaving most of the western part of the county without representation. In contrast, 11 out of the 21 towns in the county have forms of municipal government that use wards. This insures that residents in all areas of the municipality have representation in how their town is governed.
“These 11 municipalities comprise 72 percent of the population in the county,” he said, adding that there are only four counties in the state that have nine member freeholder boards, including Union, Atlantic, Hudson and Essex counties. He suggested that Atlantic, Hudson and Essex counties all elect a county executive, while the Union freeholder board appoints a county manager, which is “a party patronage position.”
“Who gains and who loses if the Union County Freeholders are directly elected from nine districts?” Krauss asked. “More than likely, based on current voter registration demographics, 42 percent are Democrat, 44 percent are unaffiliated and 15 percent are Republicans. The Democrats would still hold the majority on the freeholder board, with one or two districts going to the Republicans and one or two districts possibly up for grabs or even a third party entering the mix,” he explained, noting that this would create a balanced representative form of government in Union County.
“The winners in all of this are the residents of Union County,” Krauss added.
When it comes to politics, Krauss said the entire issue “could make your head spin.”
“The one thing I can tell you is party affiliation at the local and county level is irrelevant. There are no issues that are addressed at the county level that split the county on party lines,” he said, pointing out that unlike at the state and federal level where gun control, gay marriage, troops overseas and global warming are important issues, they are not addressed locally.
“What splits the county on party lines is how to best govern the county and where to apply resources and most importantly, your tax dollars, which represent anywhere from 18 to 26 percent of your property taxes,” he said, adding that the caveat is that in order for a person to get elected they have to have party affiliation. While Krauss admitted breaking the hold the Democrats have on the freeholder board is no easy feat, he is well aware it is time.
“Having a 9-0 party majority creates what is called a super majority where one party has total control and can and has shut out any contrary opinion or counter position by opposing members of the public,” he said, adding that this basically results in no discussion or debate taking place.
Krauss brought up something he recalled from campaigning in Springfield in 2009 when he knocked on the door of a resident who let him know she was a Democrat, but voted Republican in the freeholder race. The candidate said he never forgot her explanation of why she voted this way.
“She told me that she wanted someone ‘to keep an eye on them,’” he said, adding that at the time he did not fully understand the complexities of the Union County government as well as he does now.
“This senior citizen, who was a lifelong Democrat, knew that one party rule doesn’t make for healthy government. It leads to the abuse of authority and violates the public trust. She wanted someone from the Republican party to serve on the freeholder board just to keep an eye on them,” Krauss said.
NEXT WEEK: LocalSource will continue its coverage of the Union County Freeholder race, and take a look at P. Mark Martini, a Republican.