Tuesday, August 30, 2005

GOP mayoral candidate reluctant to withdraw?

Despite July headlines announcing her withdrawal, Republican mayoral candidate Cheryl Arana is still on the ballot, election officials said.

Arana said in early July she was dropping out due to her father's severe illness in Indiana. But a call to the County Clerk's Election Division Monday (Aug. 29, 2005) revealed she had never submitted the required letter of withdrawal and so is still the GOP candidate.

Republican Party Chairwoman Sandy Spector declined comment on the situation Tuesday and Arana did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Under election rules, the party has until Sept. 21 to fill a vacancy, if one exists.

Meanwhile, Arana hit the headlines this month with a petition drive to get new downtown benches removed, saying they would attract homeless people and "the mentally impaired."

She circulated the petition on behalf of Merchants of Plainfield United for Progress, or MOPUP, and said all Front Street merchants downtown signed it. The petition sparked a debate over both its intent and its language. Although some merchants said MOPUP was defunct, Arana said it was "still in effect," but didn't hold meetings often. MOPUP President Sue Brown could not be reached.

City officials had some of the benches repositioned, but so far all 60 of the $1,099 custom-made seats are still downtown, with 20 more to be installed in the second phase of a downtown streetscape project.

While Arana's election situation is murky, another candidate seems destined for smooth sailing in the November 8 general election.

City businessman Elliot Simmons is running unopposed for the 4th Ward City Council seat, having defeated incumbent Joanne Hollis by 21 votes in the June Democratic primary.

It's a change from 1997, when Simmons ran as an independent candidate for the same seat. In that race, Simmons came in dead last in a field of four.

Simmons did not reply to a call for comment on his campaign.

In the weeks before the June primary, voters received flyers reflecting a bitter fight between the Regular Democratic Organization and Mayor Al McWilliams' New Democrats. McWilliams lost the primary to RDO candidate Sharon Robinson-Briggs.

After a quiet summer, voters can expect campaigns to heat up as Robinson-Briggs faces independent candidate Bob Ferraro and whoever emerges from the GOP situation. There is also a contest for the 2nd & 3rd Ward at-large seat, between incumbent Democrat Rashid Burney and Republican Al Coleman.

Assemblyman Jerry Green said Tuesday the RDO has met with various council members and also established a community group of about 60 to 70 residents to identify city issues and generate solutions. Now that the primary is over, he said, all Democrats should be united to support the entire Democratic slate, from gubernatorial candidate Jon Corzine through Assembly, Union County Freeholder and local candidates.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: politics, Election 2005