Evesham Mayor Randy Brown easily defeated Pat Haynes in the Republican primary on Tuesday, according to unofficial election results. Brown will face Democrat Richard Soboleski in the general election.
"I'm obviously tremendously pleased that the residents of Evesham came out and they spoke - they like the direction this town is going in," Brown said just before walking into a victory bash at the Marlton Tavern.
It was the first primary since residents voted last fall to change the township's form of elections from partisan to nonpartisan, moving them from May to November.
The battle to be the GOP candidate became contentious in recent weeks, as Brown sought to fend off a challenge from Haynes, a former township employee who lost his job due to a restructuring directed by the mayor and council members in 2007.
Haynes, parks and recreation director for 15 years, criticized Brown for raising taxes 27 percent in his first year in office. Taxes have stayed flat in the two years since. He also campaigned to increase community involvement and government transparency.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed, but the voters have spoken, and tomorrow I'll get to relax and I'll think about this for a little bit," Haynes said. "Mr. Brown put up a formidable fight. . . . We just couldn't match the money they were putting into the race."
Though Evesham was officially nonpartisan before the voter-approved change, partisan politics had played a role in township campaigns and Brown flipped from Republican to Democrat when initially running in 2007.
He switched back to the GOP this year and won the backing of the Burlington County Republicans, his former adversaries. That prompted accusations from Haynes and Democrats that he was an opportunist.
Former Councilman Mike Schmidt, a Democrat and former political ally of Brown's, raised the issue in a statement released by the Evesham Democratic Club this week, saying, "It seems it's only about helping Randy get elected or reelected."
Democratic Club president Terri Shirley Summerhayes said Tuesday night that Haynes had showed very well and that the party's candidates looked forward to a "pretty active campaign" for the fall.
Brown expressed particular pride yesterday at winning an election district that was composed of senior communities by about 50 votes, after losing it by more than 120 in 2007.
"They came out in force, the seniors today, to support me," he said.