What do Mickey Mouse, Kermit the Frog, and a ficus plant have in common? They’ve all gotten more votes than Republican candidates running for election to Plainsboro Township Committee in the three out of the last four elections.##M:[more]##
This year, the GOP is hoping that scenario will change. Shortly before the deadline to file for the June party primary, Stacey Zieminski filed her papers to stand as a Republican candidate to challenge Mayor Pete Cantu, a Democrat, for Township Committee. When Cantu (who was first elected in 1975) last ran for re-election to Township Committee in 2002, he ran unopposed, although there were some write-in votes, including one for Mickey Mouse and two votes for a ficus tree.
At 21 years of age, Zieminski is new to the Plainsboro political scene. “Since I have been in New Jersey, I’ve gotten into politics quite a bit,” she says. “I started helping with Bill Spadea’s campaign (against Rush Holt) and I got very motivated.”
From there, becoming a candidate for Township Committee was almost a natural process. “At the Middlesex County convention for the gubernatorial race, I was approached by a couple of people in the Republican party in Plainsboro,” she says. “They told me they would love it if I’d run. So I put my name out and now I am running.” She will be the lone Republican candidate in the June party primary and then she will be on the ballot in the November election against Cantu.
Born and raised in Staten Island, Zieminski says her parents are both liberal Democrats. “I can tell you that there are no family get togethers around election time,” she says. Her mother works as a registered nurse at Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan and her father is a medical technician at the V.A. Hospital in Brooklyn. She has three brothers and two sisters and is the second oldest in her family.
Zieminski has been a resident of Plainsboro’s Pheasant Hollow apartments for the past two years. She works as a assistant physical therapist in Princeton while also working part-time toward her bachelor’s degree at Georgian Court University, in Lakewood. Zieminski expects to graduate with a double major in biology and psychology at the end of the next school year.
While she is the first in her family to become involved in politics, she does have some political ties. Her fiance, Dan O’Neill, (a June, 2006 wedding is planned) is the volunteer coordinator for Republican Bret Schundler’s Middlesex County campaign for governor. In addition, her future brother-in-law, Thomas O’Neill, is running for township council in North Brunswick.
At the time of this interview, Zieminski had yet to attend a Township Committee meeting and she often seems much more conversant about Schundler’s political platform than any particular changes she would bring to Plainsboro if elected. At the Plainsboro Founder’s Day celebration on May 1, Zieminski strolled among her fellow residents with Schundler, shaking hands and discussing issues. “We had a great day and got a very positive response,” she says. “It was nice to meet the people and hear what they are looking for.”
When asked about how she would serve Plainsboro residents were she elected, Zieminski points to Schundler’s program. “I’m right alongside Brett Schundler and his plans to bring his property tax revolution to Plainsboro,” she says. “The best explanation is that if you are a homeowner, you can go on his website. There has been a proven plan that Brett has. If you put in your address, it will show you how much money you would have saved on last year’s taxes.”
“His way to give the town back to the township is by cutting government spending and unnecessary jobs in the government. When we stop that spending, he has a plan to bring the money back to the township,” says Zieminski. “The money goes to Trenton and nobody ever sees anything and our taxes go up. He has a plan to drastically get our money back into our town and the schools.”
Zieminski says that she is in the process of purchasing her first home and this has awakened her to some of the difficulties encountered by homeowners. “With the big jumps in taxes it makes me scared of becoming a first time homeowner,” she says. “This is why I feel confident in running. The other candidate hasn’t said anything about how he is going to change the system. How much longer am I going to be able to live in New Jersey with the taxes this high. It is scary and a lot of people are going to be chased out of their homes. That’s why we need a candidate who is going to make a change.”
Zieminski also takes aim at Schundler’s opponent in the June, former West Windsor resident Doug Forrester. “Doug Forrester talks a lot about how the government is corrupt,” says Zieminski. “We all know that. But we haven’t heard him say that he has a plan on what he is going to do to change that. He has recently come out and said he was going to give 10 percent of our money from our taxes back to us, but his plan is so that if taxes increase 7 percent for the year, his plans to bring 10 percent back will mean that we really only get 3 percent. So we are really not gaining very much. That’s why Brett’s is the most effective plan.”
But Zieminski is less specific about Plainsboro politics, though she does charge that Peter Cantu is not doing enough to help Plainsboro tax payers. “I’ve heard a lot of great things about Mayor Cantu,” she says. “He obviously has been the mayor for a long time here in Plainsboro. But he has no plans to lower anything or do anything. I haven’t heard him come out and say how he is going to try to change anything. He is just going to go with the flow.”
As an apartment dweller, Zieminski says she has a special affinity for their concerns. “I have a lot of neighbors approach me and ask me if I can bring up some of their concerns at the Township Committee meetings,” says Zieminski. “A few months ago there were robberies going all around the apartments and a lot of money and jewelry was being stolen. I was also robbed myself. No one was getting any restitution, nothing was getting solved. The cops never followed up on anything. They’ve actually found the guy who was doing the robberies but we still haven’t heard anything since.”
Zieminski says that with Township Committee completely made up of Democrats, some residents have told her it is time for a change. “I’ve met a lot of people who are undeclared but have said that they were previously partial to the Democrats in elections,” she says. “But they feel that now Plainsboro is too Democratic and they are very unhappy. It’s been 25 years.
Becoming a member of the Republican party despite being raised as a liberal Democrat was a learning process for Zieminski. “I feel that the Republican party has a lot to offer to voters along the lines of moral issues,” she says. “I have never heard of a pro-life Democrat or a Democrat who stands up for any moral issues. Personally, moral issues are the most important to me and there is nothing more I respect than a person who stands up for God.”
Despite her youthfulness and inexperience in politics, Zieminski says that her age is something that works in her favor. “To have a lot of people see a young person come in who wants to make a change is a good thing,” she says. “It helps to see someone my age help shape the party and help shape what residents are looking for in the long term.”
While Cantu has served Plainsboro for the past 30 years, he will not be around forever. He recently retired from his position at KMM and there has been some speculation that this may be his last run at re-election. How Zieminski will do in November is anybody’s guess. Based on recent Republican performances in Plainsboro, she is certainly likely to do better than the ficus tree, but whether she will effectively challenge Cantu is another question.