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Race for Princeton Council taking shape as candidates look towards Princeton’s future

Four councilmembers look onto a fifth member who is speaking at a town council meeting.
Councilmembers gathered at the Oct. 23 meeting.
Sandeep Mangat / The Daily Princetonian

When November 2024 election season rolls around, there will be two Princeton Council seats up for grabs. Both positions are currently uncontested.

Councilmember Eve Niedergang GS ’85 publicly shared her intention not to seek re-election last month. In the days following, last month, Brian McDonald ’83 announced a bid to fill the role. Two weeks ago, Councilmember Leighton Newlin announced that he plans to seek reelection for a second term.


McDonald told The Daily Princetonian in an interview that the circumstances presented themselves for him to run for the Council, citing his impending departure from the Princeton Board of Education and the vacancy left by Niedergang.

“I’ve lived in Princeton for 29 years now — not including four years as an undergrad,” McDonald told the ‘Prince.’ “It’s been an important part of my life, and I’ve spent a lot of time giving back to the community and to many of the non-profit organizations in the community.” McDonald spent seven years on the Citizens’ Finance Advisory Committee of the municipality and six years on the school board. “In some ways, this is a natural progression for me,” he added.

McDonald pointed to his background in finance and education as experiences that will serve him well on the Council.

“​​My understanding of the municipal finances is very important in a high tax state, at a time when we want Princeton to deliver excellent municipal services as efficiently as possible so we can hold tax increases as low as possible,” McDonald said. “And I think I’m well-suited to work with the council members and the mayor and town’s citizens and of course, the staff to do our very best to hold tax increases as low as they can be.”

Newlin, who was born and raised in Princeton, told the ‘Prince’ that he is running for reelection because “the job is just not done.”

“​​My commitment was to leave Princeton better than I found it. And we’re in process,” Newlin said. “We’re creating affordable housing. We’re creating an infrastructure that’s heavy on the social infrastructure. We’re looking after our people that live in public housing [by making] great strides with the board that oversees the public housing structures in Princeton.”


The town’s affordable housing proposal in the Master Plan has provoked controversy, as some residents have expressed concern for the preservation of green spaces and historic buildings. On the other side of the debate, advocates for the plan point to a decades-long struggle to increase affordable housing options locally.

However, the town is expected to build well over 1,000 affordable housing units, mostly due to a state mandate.

Both McDonald and Newlin discussed Princeton’s growth and their visions for shaping Princeton’s future.

McDonald said he hopes that the town’s growth will be as “deliberate and intentional” as possible. 

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“It should be sustainable and as consistent as possible with the town’s character. It would support the diversity of the community, which is such an important component of who we are and what we want to be in the future. In the next five to seven years, we’re going to add something like 1500 units of housing, and that’s a big change, and one that I think I can help the town navigate as well as possible.”

Newlin echoed McDonald’s hopes for sustainable growth.

“Our hope is to create a town that’s going to be sustainable. That can be lived in, not just by the rich people, but by people of all means, of all ethnicities, of all income levels,” Newlin said. “We can no longer be a gated town. The average home in Princeton sold for $1.3 million last year — that’s not sustainable. We gotta have smart growth and make wise choices. This is about making Princeton available and accessible to a great many more people than it is now accessible to. We have to work to reverse this trend.”

Niedergang told the ‘Prince’ that she is proud of her time on the Council, which she calls a “labor of love,” and reflected on the most recent accomplishment: the new five-year, $50 million agreement between the University and the municipality.

“​​I think [the relationship with the University] has really improved since I came on to Council, and we’ve really worked hard to build a relationship of trust and partnership,” Niedergang said. “And I think the agreement really shows what you can do if you do have that relationship of trust in a partnership.”

A Princeton Council election hasn’t been contested since the 2020 primaries, when David Cohen, Leticia Fraga, and Dina Shaw ran for the two available seats.

Those seeking to run for elected office in Mercer County, including Princeton Council, have until March 25 to file their candidacy petition for the 2024 primary election.

Charlie Roth is a senior News writer for the ‘Prince.’

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