Much has been made by Democratic Candidates Brian Dougherty and Lesley D’Almeida regarding the decision of the majority of the candidates for the Atlantic Highlands Borough Council not to participate in the Red Bank League Of Women Voters forum. Their vociferous condemnation of our decision makes their silence on our suggestions of alternatives very striking. There have been numerous emails to both Democratic candidates, asking for input on the timing, venue, ground rules, moderator, and content. These emails as of this writing have not even received the courtesy of a response, let alone a productive conversation moving this idea forward.

Regarding why they declined on October 5 to participate in the LWV forum slated for October 18, 7pm, Ellen O’Dwyer-Woods stated, “We opted in at the first invitation, but when the terms and format were presented, were not agreeable to them as proposed.  Because we believe it critical to our Democracy to have in person debate with open dialogue between candidates and moderators, we respectfully declined the invitation because the LWV could not bridge the gaps after several weeks of deliberation on several terms including a lack of protections in place for a fair process.”

Later that morning, the Independent candidates Morgan Spicer and Zack Brown also declined participation in the LWV forum stating, “Our feeling from the beginning has been that the purpose of this forum is to educate the residents of town about our campaigns, and give them a chance to ask us questions about issues that are important to them. We continue to feel this is only possible with all 6 candidates participating. As the Republican candidates have confirmed that will not be possible we no longer feel that our participation in this debate is in the best interest of our campaign, or the residents of our Atlantic Highlands.”

With prior verbal agreement from all candidates (with Lesley D’Almeida speaking on behalf of her running mate), Ellen O’Dwyer Woods and Jim Murphy extended an invitation for all 6 candidates to jointly host a more transparent and locally held forum, both in-person and virtual, with the format, moderator, and terms to be agreeable by all, and took steps to secure 2 venues and dates, including the original October 18th 7pm slot.  “We proposed a Town Hall forum that would encourage the residents of Atlantic Highlands to step forward and ask questions that are relevant to them. What a great opportunity we have to work together on running a forum where all candidates are fairly represented, in a forum accessible in person and virtually, and showing the public that we can collaborate on a mutually agreeable solution for everyone.”

Since reaching out with an invitation to work together on organizing a new forum, 10 days have passed, including a close of business Wednesday deadline. We have received neither a response nor acknowledgement from the Democratic candidates, Brian Dougherty and Lesley D’Almeida confirming their initial willingness to have an in-person debate.


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These events lead the 4 of us asking a simple question; Why won’t Brian and Lesley opt in on what essentially amounts to a venue change?

We are not here to answer that question, but rather to communicate two things to the voters and residents of Atlantic Highlands. First and foremost, all 4 of us want to hold a forum. We all agree that it is beneficial to our town, and will help people make the most informed possible decision on November 2nd. Secondly, there is still an opportunity to make that happen. While it is likely not feasible to make all the necessary arrangements by October 18, there are a few other dates that could work. Our highest priority has always been, and continues to be a fair, open, transparent forum for the purposes of informing our residents and voters. We hope that Brian and Lesley will step up and work with us to find a solution that is agreeable to all.

In case a mutually agreeable solution is not possible, people should know that a detailed survey on Atlantic Highlands issues was sent by an interested resident to each of the candidates.  By September 10, every candidate responded, in writing, and all of the answers were compiled into one easy to read document. Any resident who has not seen this document but would like to, we would encourage them to reach out to any one of us, and we would be more than happy to provide it.

See Powerpoint Questionnaire and Candidates Reponses

Together in democracy,

Candidates for Atlantic Highlands Borough Council (in alphabetical order):

Zack Brown ([email protected])

Jim Murphy ([email protected])

Ellen O’Dwyer-Woods ([email protected])

Morgan Spicer ([email protected])


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Jim Murphy

Jim Murphy is Atlantic Highlands Council President

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