Thursday, August 16, 2018

A 28-year-old takes on the Lambertville machine and wins

Julia Fahl, 28, a first-time candidate for elected office, defeated an incumbent in the primary race for mayor of Lambertville, N.J., who had been in office since the year Mrs. Fahl was born. She is running unopposed in November. Credit Michelle Gustafson for The New York Times

Nick Corasanti reports for the New York Times

LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. — The welcome mat at the entryway to the home of this town’s likely next mayor reads, “The Patriarchy.”
“So you have to step on it before you come into our home,” said Julia Fahl, 28. “We had that custom-made,’’ added Kari Osmond, 31, Mrs. Fahl’s wife and campaign manager.
It is a fitting symbol of what Mrs. Fahl managed to pull off in this bucolic city along the Delaware River that draws visitors for its blend of antique shops, eclectic galleries and trendy restaurants. Mrs. Fahl, who had never run for office, upset a 61-year-old incumbent in June, Dave DelVecchio, who had been in office since Mrs. Fahl was born and is known to residents simply as “Mayor Dave.”
Mrs. Fahl mounted the first challenge in Mr. DelVecchio’s 27 years as mayor, a contentious race that for 97 days after her announcement to run engrossed this heavily Democratic community.

As a young, energetic female candidate campaigning on a message of change, Mrs. Fahl has drawn some comparisons to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the upstart 28-year-old Democratic candidate in New York who also upset an entrenched incumbent with a grass-roots campaign.
Like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, Mrs. Fahl had to overcome the support of the county political machine, which had endorsed and thrown its operation behind Mr. DelVecchio, including, she said, blocking her from accessing voter data. And the same energy for a fresh direction among an energized Democratic base was palpable in her victory here, evidence that the desire to upend the establishment extends down to the local level.
“I think people are thinking they should have done more in the presidential election, so they’re getting a lot more active now,” Mr. DelVecchio said. “But it’s definitely a good time to be a woman running for office and it has been for some time, but now more than ever.”
Still, the similarities to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez only go so far.
For one, Mrs. Fahl counts herself more in what she calls “the Clinton wing’’ of the Democratic Party and her calls for change are rooted in municipal business rather than the national issues animating the Democratic Party (on those, Mrs. Fahl and Mr. DelVecchio share similar views). But when it comes to shade trees, trash and City Hall hours, Mrs. Fahl seized on a growing unrest with how the town was run.

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