In Voorhees, Ex-candidate Re-enters The Race John Grace Won The Gop Primary, But Bowed Out When Committeeman Craig Reider Decided To Stay In The Race.

Posted: September 15, 1994

VOORHEES — Craig Reider's announcement that he would run again for Township Committee created more confusion than surprise on the local political scene.

The two seats on the committee currently held by Reider and fellow Republican Peggy Diliberto are up for grabs in November. Both had said they would not seek re-election to the three-year posts.

Gary Finger and John Grace, running unopposed in the May primary, won spots on the GOP ticket, but Reider last week decided to re-enter the race, taking Grace's spot.

Reider said he didn't want to leave thecommittee until he felt his work was done. Grace bowed out, and will serve as campaign manager for Reider and Finger.

The change left Democratic challenger Beth Mento, the current chairwoman of the township's Planning Board, wondering why the ticket was being switched so late in the campaign.

Mento, a psychiatric social worker at Hampton Hospital in Rancocas and the chairwoman of the township's Planning Board, led an unsuccessful campaign for a committee seat in 1991. Her running mate, Darryl Beckman, a 33-year-old lawyer who is also a member of the Planning Board, is making his first run for elective office.

For Beckman, the change in the opposition won't change the campaign very much.

"Craig's a known quantity to the people in town," he said.

Beckman, a four-year resident of Voorhees, said his main concern now is getting the township's residents to get to know him.

"I don't want to be the person that people vote for and have no idea who I am," he said.

Mento said she and Beckman's campaigning so far has focused on going door- to-door, listening to residents' concerns and getting feedback about the township. And most of what she hears, she said, is positive, so maintaining the status quo in the township is important.

Finger and Reider don't paint as rosy a picture of the township's economic and political situation.

A victory for Mento and Beckman would create a Democratic monopoly on the committee, which that party now dominates by holding three of the five seats.

"Right now, Voorhees stands to lose the two-party system," Finger said. ''You've got to have a minority party."

Historically, both parties have voted in blocs, with one notable exception: last year's $1.55 million bond issue, which split the township and, for the first time since Reider and Diliberto began serving together in 1991, the Republican vote.

Reider argued against the bond issue, favoring instead a plan that included a one-time tax increase to offset losses that came with successful tax appeals. He still stands by his decision, saying it better planned for the township's economic future.

"They went out and borrowed money to throw at the budget with no plan for the future," he said when announcing his re-entry into the race.

Mento and Beckman have publicly voiced their support for the bond issue.

On other major issues, the two tickets aren't so far apart.

The consolidation of the three fire districts is in the works. Both sides said they just want to see it done right, maintaining the current level of fire protection in the township, lowering fire taxes for some residents and keeping the large, vocal group of volunteer firefighters involved.

In August, a resolution thatwould have asked voters to decide if the township should disband its police dispatch system in favor of joining the county's central dispatch was tabled.

But the candidates could face the issue as members of the committee. Reider had argued against any change in the system, saying a small tax savings wouldn't be worth putting dispatchers out of jobs and possibly compromising police response time.

Mento and Beckman both said that although more information was needed before any decision could be made, they'd rather see the township's dispatchers keep their jobs.

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