Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede with a dog.

Hamilton Township Mayor Kelly Yaede announced her bid for re-election March 13 in front of supporters at the newly renovated Hamilton Lanes. A day later, she learned she’ll have to earn her way onto the November general election ballot by defeating a primary challenger who has been one of her fiercest critics.

The man she’ll face in June is David Henderson, who kicked off his campaign on the steps of the township municipal building March 14. Henderson said fire consolidation, streamlining the municipal government, keeping property taxes low and focusing on economic development would be some of his top priorities. Among the development initiatives he’d like to pursue are enticing the wind turbine industry to set up manufacturing facilities along Hamilton’s Delaware River shoreline and possibly resurrecting a transit village proposal as a plan for the Congoleum property on Sloan Avenue.

Henderson is active in the county Republican Party, and one of the founders of the splinter group, Republicans For A Better Hamilton.

Henderson served as campaign manager for the Republicans running for Mercer County freeholder last year, as well as for a slate of candidates for Hamilton Township Board of Education. An investigation by the Hamilton Post revealed two of those school board candidates had social media accounts with a history of racist, sexist or otherwise questionable posts.

Robbinsville mayor Dave Fried, former Republican Senate candidate Bob Hugin, and David Henderson at the Mercer County Republican Convention March 15, 2019. (Facebook photo.)

Among the Republican dignitaries at Henderson’s March 14 announcement was former councilman Ed Gore, who resigned in February from his position as township public defender after sharing a Facebook post that compared Democrats to the Ku Klux Klan.

Republican councilwoman Ileana Schirmer also attended Henderson’s campaign kickoff, a day after she announced she will not seek re-election this year. In a letter, Schirmer thanked residents for supporting her. She also knocked Yaede on the way out, saying “I simply cannot support an administration I no longer respect.”

The Hamilton Township Republicans showed that feeling perhaps is mutual, when they put out a call for candidates Feb. 15. The announcement solicited people to run alongside Yaede and incumbent councilman Ralph Mastrangelo in this year’s election—without ever naming Schirmer or acknowledging the slot would replace a multi-term incumbent who had yet to publicly announce a decision regarding her own future.

Yaede, meanwhile, made official last month what had been known for weeks—that she will seek another term as Hamilton’s mayor. Yaede told the Hamilton Post in late January that she “absolutely” would be running for re-election.

Yaede has been mayor since November 2012, when she was appointed to the position by township council. She won re-election in 2013 and again in 2015. She previously served on the township Board of Education and township council.

In her official announcement March 13, Yaede touted Hamilton’s crime rate, economic development and property taxes as proof of her successes as mayor.

The winner of the Henderson-Yaede primary June 4 will face council president Jeff Martin, a Democrat, in the November election for mayor.