The 2023 election results are in and certified, and it’s with so much pride and admiration that the BTDC can recognize Ana McCarthy’s historic first-place finish for a seat on Bernards’ all-Republican township committee.
There’s more good news than that: Not only did Ana earn more votes than incumbent Gary Baumann (R), but Ana’s running mate Lily Wong (a fairly new resident) came within 8 votes of beating Baumann. That’s right, 8 votes.
In short, history has been made.
In the nearly 100 years since elections have been held in Bernards Township, McCarthy is the third Democrat ever to be elected to the five-member committee. Ana follows in the footsteps of Bill Allen, who was elected in four separate contests spanning from the 1970s to the 1990s, and Joan Bannan, elected for one term in 2018. What’s more, Ana Duarte McCarthy is officially the first Latin American to win election to the township’s governing body, from either party.
After Bannan’s election, the BTDC had been unable to successfully run a candidate until now. In fact, at the township’s January 2022 reorganization meeting, then-mayor James Baldassare was quoted as saying, “Once again, our residents have chosen overwhelmingly to keep Bernards Township a fully Republican-run town.”
As of November 2023, this is no longer the case.
With McCarthy’s first-place finish, Wong’s very strong showing, and a board of education election that rejected a slate of candidates boasting conservative values, Bernards’ political climate may be ripe for change, or at least moderation. Today’s township voter pool is comprised of roughly 6,000 registered Democrats, 6,500 registered Republicans and 7,300 unaffiliated voters, meaning a stronger Democratic showing is, in fact, possible.
To those who believe that in leaving Lily Wong’s 8 votes on the table the BTDC could have – should have – done more and done better, it’s also reasonable to believe McCarthy’s first-ever first-place finish reflects the beginning of a sea change. The proverbial glass feels very much “half full,” as McCarthy-Wong campaign chair Sara Nichols drove a high level of social media engagement and successfully employed text banking for the first time – tools that will undoubtedly serve BTDC campaigns moving forward.
At this juncture, as Ana McCarthy stands poised to be sworn in and will contribute diversity of thought and opinion to Bernards governance, the challenge is on to support her efforts. Members of the BTDC must become more involved in local committees and issues as a means of emboldening Ana’s voice, and Democrats from every corner of our community are asked to make one more phone call, knock on one more door, engage in another informative conversation or two as the 2024 election season takes shape in a few short months.
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