Candidates To Appear In Willingboro

MSNBC — Wednesday, April 29, 2009

By Melissa Hayes
Staff Writer,

WILLINGBORO — With a hotly contested municipal primary election a little over a month away, a grassroots organization is hosting a candidates night tonight.

"It will give the citizens an opportunity to see the local candidates," organizer Dave Hopkins said.

The event is being hosted by township-based GrassRoots4-Change and moderated by NJ Citizen Action of Camden at 7 p.m. at the high school.

Five Democrats are vying for two seats on the Township Coun-cil. Incumbents Paul Stephenson and Jim Gray are being challenged by Ken Gordon, Nathaniel Anderson and Dennis Tunstall.

The Burlington County Democrat Committee is backing Gordon and Anderson, who will appear on the party line on ballots in the June 9 primary. That decision sparked Hopkins' organization, GrassRoots4Change, to host tonight's event.

The group had problems finding a venue for the event, which had been set for last week. Hopkins said two confirmed locations backed out at the last minute for "political" reasons.

GrassRoots4Change is an affiliate of Organizing for America, a grassroots advocacy effort under the Democratic National Commit-tee announced by President Barack Obama earlier this year.

The organization has not en-dorsed any candidates, and al-though it is affiliated with the Dem-ocratic National Committee, Hop-kins said the group is nonpartisan.

Attendees will have a chance to mingle with the candidates and submit written questions. All of the candidates will give opening and closing statements.

Hopkins said the candidates for the 7th District and 8th District state Assembly races, the county Board of Freeholders and Willingboro Township Council were invited to attend. In addition, two independent candidates running for local office in Camden requested to attend.

Democrats Herb Conaway of Delanco and Jack Conners of Pennsauken will face Republican challengers Harry Adams, a Westampton councilman, and Leah Arter, a former Beverly councilwoman, in November for 7th District Assembly seats.

Republicans Dawn Marie Addiego of Evesham and Scott Rudder of Medford will face Democrats William Brown of Mount Laurel and Debbie Sarcone of Evesham in the 8th District.

At the county level, Florence Councilman Bruce Garganio and Medford Councilwoman Mary Ann O'Brien, both Republicans, will vie for two freeholder seats against Mount Holly Council-woman Kimberley Kersey and Jim Bernard of Cinnaminson, both Democrats.

Hopkins said Conners and Conaway have confirmed that they will attend, as will Brown and Kersey.

He said he sent an invitation to the Republicans through Sen. Diane Allen, R-7th of Edgewater Park. State senators are not up for re-election this year, and Allen's office responded that for that reason, she would not attend.

Burlington County Republican Chairman Bill Layton said his candidates were not aware of the event.

Hopkins said the group plans to hold another event in the fall before the November elections.

"We want to give the citizens a voice. We're dedicated to accountable and transparent government," he said.

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