UNION – Although seven newcomers signed up to run for the Union board of education race against two incumbents, that number dropped to five last week.
Newcomer candidates Jeffrey Monge and Paul Casey announced they were dropping out of the race last week, and introduced a new group in town: Township of Union Parents for Change.
They explained in a statement why they made the decision to drop out of the race, pointing out that while it was difficult, it was based purely on increasing the chance of challengers being elected to open seats.
While is appeared the seven challengers were united at first, Monge and Casey have put their support behind three candidates in particular.
According to the statement sent to LocalSource late last week by the former candidates, the decision was driven by what was best for the children of Union.
“We ask you to please join us as we lead an initiative called Township of Union Parents for Change and help us support Ronnie McDowell, Nancy Zuena and Ondria Caffey,” said Monge and Casey, adding not only were these residents “great candidates” but also the only candidates with children attending schools in the district.
“We feel confident they will work to ensure that all the children get the best possible education, that our teachers and administrators receive appropriate support and that a culture of transparency and respect is evident throughout the district,” the former candidates said in their statement.
Both Casey and Monge indicated they would continue to be strong advocates for the children of the township and were “excited to put our efforts toward electing people who will make positive change for our district.”
This was the first clue that lines have been drawn, leaving lone challenging candidate Christopher Hackett to fend for himself come election day.
The behind the scenes jockeying began as candidates started to question who actually had the potential to generate the votes needed to oust the two incumbents, Ray Perkins, who has served 19 years on the board, and Vito Nufrio, who is ending his first term on the board.
The two incumbents have also brought aboard newcomer Steven Le to their slate, but this candidate has maintained a low profile and little is known about his qualifications to sit on the board.
However, Le submitted a press release to a free-throw paper several weeks ago highlighting his qualifications but this press release was not made available to LocolSource. Meanwhile, Hackett has said little about the formation of the Township of Union Parents for Change, or the fact this new group endorsed Caffey, McDowell and Zuena.
Sources from inside the Parents for Change group said efforts to get Hackett to drop out of the race were unsuccessful.
Hackett made it clear from the beginning the reason he was happy to be running for a board of education seat was because he was not interested in partisan politics. He also praised fellow challengers for throwing their hat in the ring.
The Union resident created the Union Resident’s Forum online with the hope that people would get “excited about Union.” This effort has been successful in its own right, with close to 3,000 members now aboard.
Hackett previously ran for Union Township Committee and an assembly seat, but lost both bids.