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Democrats Select Planning Board Chairwoman to Run For City Council

2016 Campaign Begins With a Twist: Garlatti Decides Not to Seek Re-election
Suzanne Sicora-Ludwig
Suzanne Sicora-Ludwig will be on the ballot for the June 7 Democrat Party primary Charlie Kratovil

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The City Council's most senior member will not be seeking re-election, and it appears the political establishment has already selected her replacement to run in this year's election.

The Democratic party primary will be held on June 7, and there will be just three names on the ballot for the three offices.  Independent candidates have until that day to file petitions to run in the November election that will decide who takes office next year.

Suzanne Sicora-Ludwig, an Edgebrooke resident who serves as a Democratic Committeewoman and leads the city's powerful Planning Board, will be the newcomer on the party's City Council ticket.

Sicora-Ludwig graduated from Edison High School in 1985, and spent the next 23 years married to a popular city firefighter.

Prior to her husband's untimely death in 2008, Sicora-Ludwig became involved in local government and politics, earning an appointment to the Planning Board by Mayor James Cahill.

In 2011, she was chosen to be the nine-member board's Vice Chair, and became the Chairwoman in January 2013.

According to Sicora-Ludwig's financial disclosure form, her only sources of income above $2,000 in 2015 were her late husband's pension and rental income from a property she owns on Louis Street.  She also owns her residence on Voorhees Road.

Elizabeth "Betsy" Garlatti was absent from the April 20 meeting of the City Council, and it looks like this may be her last year in office as she will be dropped from the Democratic Party ticket.

Her mother, Patricia Sheehan, was the city's first female Mayor, and her father Daniel Sheehan was also a city official.

Garlatti has not yet resigned her seat on the five-member Council where she has served since 2004, and some have speculated that she may be eyeing a run for Mayor in 2018.

Meanwhile, Sicora-Ludwig has apparently been selected by the city's Democratic Organization to run for one of three seats on the five-member Council that are up for election this fall.

In a city where Democrats have won every local and county election since the 1990's, Sicora-Ludwig will be seeking election for the first time along with two incumbents running for re-election: Councilmen Glenn Fleming and John Anderson.

Garlatti previously ran for election with Council running mates Jimmie Cook, Jr., and Robert Recine in 2004 and 2008. After they retired in 2012, the New Brunswick Democratic Organization (NBDO) selected Glenn Fleming and John Anderson.

Garlatti did not respond to a voicemail left at her work, nor to emailed questions.

Sicora-Ludwig and Garlatti, a resident of the city's Fourth Ward, have previously served together on the Planning Board.

If voters elect the new ticket to office in November, the switch would mean that all five of the Council's members would reside in the northern half of the city, with no representative for the "uptown" areas. 

The New Brunswick Democratic Organization (NBDO), which counts Sicora-Ludwig among its 55 elected committee members, has not yet announced its decision to replace Garlatti.

According to their website, the NBDO conducted "screenings" of potential candidates on March 14 at the law offices of Kelso & Bradshaw, the firm run by the same attorney who represents most of the city's major developers.

Thomas F. Kelso, the NBDO's Executive Director, also serves at the county government's top lawyer, and law partners of his firm have twice been chosen to serve as the county's Prosecutor.

Ironically, Sicora-Ludwig's most memorable and significant decision on the Planning Board was to vote against an application put forth by one of Kelso's private clients.

Sicora-Ludwig cast the deciding vote not to approve a 52-unit apartment building on Mine Street, one that drew major opposition from neighbors and other concerned citizens. 

For her part, Garlatti recused herself from the application due to her employment as a Chief of Staff at the NJ Higher Education Commission.  The project involved a collaboration between Rutgers University, the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and two of Kelso's clients.

NBDO Chairman TK Shamy, who also serves as the city government's official lawyer, did not respond to a phone message left at his private law firm, Shamy & Shamy, nor to questions submitted via email.

New Brunswick Today learned of the NBDO's decision to put Sicora-Ludwig on the ticket only thanks to a Facebook event page which lists her as a "Council Candidate."

The "Cup of Policy" event, hosted by the "Young Democrats of New Brunswick," will feature Fleming, Anderson, and Sicora-Ludwig discussing policy at Caffe Bene on George Street, on Thursday, April 29, starting at 7pm.