Hemant Marathe will be the next mayor of West Windsor. Marathe and his team of council candidates—incumbent Linda Geevers and Virginia Manzari—swept the West Windsor municipal election on Nov. 7.
Marathe took victory by a more than 10-point margin, according to unofficial results from the Mercer County Clerk’s Office.
Marathe received 3,327 votes (48.38 percent) over challengers Kamal Khanna with 2,144 votes (31.18 percent) and Yang Mei Wang with 1,389 votes (20.2 percent) in the race for township mayor.
Come January, Marathe will replace retiring Shing-Fu Hsueh, who has served as mayor since 2001.
Ironically Hsueh defeated Marathe in the last mayoral election in 2013. Since then, Marathe, while serving as a member of West Windsor Council, has frequently opposed Hsueh on a number of his initiatives.
In the race for two seats on council, it was Marathe’s “Standing up for West Windsor” slate up against the “Working together for West Windsor” slate led by Khanna with council candidates Kristin Epstein and Yingchao “YZ” Zhang.
Geevers was the top vote-getter of all candidates, both mayoral and council, with 3,554 (27.51 percent). Manzari captured the second seat with 3,212 votes (24.86 percent). Epstein brought in 3,068 votes (23.75) and Zhang finished a close fourth with 3,065 votes (23.72 percent).
“The easy work has been done and the hard work begins on Jan. 1,” Marathe said in a statement sent to the News. “We will do our best to live up to people’s expectations of us.”
In a post on Facebook, Marathe committed to continue his opposition to the housing proposed by the Howard Hughes Corp. on the Amercian Cyanamid tract. “We have said no rezoning and we will stand by it. It was never meant as a campaign promise only to get elected.”
Geevers, who will serve her fourth term on council, said she believes her team’s message was consistent throughout the campaign.
“Residents knew exactly where we stood on the Howard Hughes property and on other issues,” she said. “As West Windsor has a non-partisan form of government, we felt it was incumbent upon ourselves to leave party politics out of the race.
“Our opponents went strongly in the opposite direction,” Geevers said. “With so much division at the state and national levels, I felt it was imperative to keep the focus on the concerns of our residents.”
Manzari said that she is “very honored that the voters of West Windsor have put their trust in our team. I believe they could sense the strength of our convictions in dealing with the challenges facing the community.
Manzari said that the team’s main priority is to challenge the Howard Hughes project. “The Howard Hughes Corporation’s plan… poses a very real threat to our schools, our already high tax burden, our roads and our overall quality of life,” she said.
“We will do whatever it takes to prevent rezoning of that property and to facilitate its development commercially instead,” she said.
Khanna said that he doesn’t attribute his team’s loss to any one factor, but added that he believes his opponents campaigned based on only one issue.
“My strategy from the beginning was to knock on every door in West Windsor Township (we visited 7,121 homes, or 94 percent), speak with as many residents as possible, and learn about the real issues facing West Windsor residents,” Khanna said.
“Instead of walking every neighborhood, our opponents campaigned on only one issue—who hates Howard Hughes Corporation the most,” Khanna added. “But no slander and sound-bite attacks will fix the sewer problems on Old Trenton Road, South Post Road, Line Road, and Cubberly Road; or the lack of bike lanes in town; or the increasing anxiety facing our school children; or the many other concerns we heard.”
Epstein said that despite her loss, she plans to stay involved. “You will be hearing more from me in the future as I continue, now publicly, to push for environmental sustainability, sound planning, fiscal responsibility, traffic and bicycle and pedestrian safety,” she said.
Looking at the results, Wang had a clear impact on the election, apparently taking the most votes from Khanna, who received some 900 less votes than his council running mates.
Marathe, meanwhile, was within about 100 votes of Geevers’ and Manzari’s totals.
Despite the sweep, the balance of power on the council won’t be determined until Marathe’s seat on council is filled.
The seat now held by Councilwoman Jyotika Bahree (who was appointed earlier this year after the resignation of Peter Mendonez) will be filled by Manzari, and the seat held by Marathe will be vacated as of Jan. 1.
This creates a 2-2 voting bloc of Geevers and Manzari on one side and council members Alison Miller and Ayesha Hamilton on the other.
Marathe’s seat will be filled by a candidate chosen by council from among a list of applicants—the exact same process as earlier this year to used to fill Mendonez’s seat, according to Township Clerk Sharon Young. Bahree had pledged to only serve until the end of this year, and she has not said whether she will seek to be appointed Marathe’s seat.
After the election, Wang said that she intends to seek to be appointed to the seat. She also thanked the community for its support during the election and congratulated Marathe, Geevers and Manzari.
“I will continue to serve our town by helping with what I can on grant applications and infrastructure and transportation improvements,” she said.
Krug, Whitfield, Cheng win school board seats
Voters elected candidates supportive of the current direction of the school district in the contest for two West Windsor seats and one Plainsboro seat on the WW-P School Board.
In Plainsboro, incumbent Isaac Cheng easily won reelection with 1,640 votes, as opposed to 968 votes for Peter Syrek and 348 votes for Russel Melville, who ran a minimal campaign.
In the West Windsor contest, incumbent Dana Krug and her running mate Martin Whitfield won election over Rakesh Kak and anti-administration candidates Veronica Mehno and Yanping “Helen” Ming, who were running together.
Krug, with 3,201 votes (27.04 percent), and Whitfield, with 3,196 (27 percent), won by a large margin over Mehno, with 1,955 votes (16.52 percent), Ming, with 1,944 votes (16.42 percent) and Kak, who had 1,530 votes (12.93 percent).
Whitfield will be filling the seat vacated by Yingchao “YZ” Zhang when he opted to run for West Windsor council instead of reelection to his seat on the board.
In a letter to the News, Krug and Whitfield thanked the community and said they are “thrilled and honored” to serve on board for the next three years.
“We appreciate our many friends and neighbors who helped us throughout the campaign,” they said. “We promise to continue to work hard for every student in West Windsor-Plainsboro. Our shared goal is to bring our diverse community together while maintaining an excellent education for our children at an affordable price to taxpayers.”
The two also urged their constituents to share any issues the would like to see addressed.
Cantu reelected in Plainsboro
In the race for one open seat on Plainsboro Township Committee, Mayor Peter Cantu, who was running unopposed, received 3,270 votes.
Cantu, who was first elected in 1974, will be entering his 15th consecutive year on the governing body. It is also expected that he will be chosen to once again serve as mayor in January.