Saturday, September 17, 2005

McWilliams says "Yes" to the GOP

Mayor Albert T. McWilliams said today (Saturday, Sept. 17, 2005) he has agreed to run for another term on the Republican line, appealing to all the city’s 19,000 voters as a “fusion” candidate.

A two-term Democrat, McWilliams was forced to run offline in the June primary and lost to Sharon Robinson-Briggs, who was backed by the Regular Democratic Organization.

At a press conference in his Prospect Avenue home, McWilliams said he was asked Thursday night by Republican Party Chairwoman Sandy Spector to run for mayor in the November election. The GOP had a vacancy due to the withdrawal of Cheryl Arana.

Before making his announcement, McWilliams took time to thank his family - his wife, Darlene, and their five children - for supporting him in his political career, most recently through what he called “the ugliness of campaigning” in the hard-fought primary.

“Thank you and I love you,“ he said.

McWilliams said after his primary loss, many people asked him to run as a write-in candidate, but he said the effort would be difficult and not enough “to keep Plainfield moving forward.”

“Plainfield needs leaders,” he said, “leaders that are not afraid of pushing back or refusing mandates of county political leadership.”

Speaking against nepotism and patronage, he said, “My belief is as it has always been - Union County party politics will only be acceptable if it benefits the residents of Plainfield.”

Now, he said, “I consider myself to be a ‘fusion’ candidate for this city, connecting a future with the Republican Party with a successful Democratic past.”

Citing his background, which includes eight years as mayor and service on the City Council, he said Robinson-Briggs has “absolutely no city government experience.”

McWilliams said he wants to debate Robinson-Briggs as soon as possible.

As McWilliams spoke to reporters with Union County Republican Party Chairman Phil Morin and longtime mayoral supporter Chris Onieal looking on, a small group gathered across the street.

City activist Joan Hervey held up a “Stop the Violence” sign left over from a rally last week.

Asked how long she would stay there, Hervey said, "Until the violence stops."

The Regular Democrats blamed McWilliams for a string of 14 killings and said he laid off police, but McWilliams said Saturday the City Council laid off police against his wishes and that most of the killings were done by persons who knew their victims.

Another of the four people across the street was Keith Biddulph, who ran for City Council as a Republican against Democrat Cory Storch. Storch is now the 2nd Ward councilman.

Biddulph said he was there to find out what the mayor was going do to and when he heard McWilliams was switching, he called it a “good move.”

“The mayor has made progress,” he said.

Spector said she could see Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters “getting rejuvenated right across the city“ and felt the mayor‘s decision was “keeping Plainfield on the right path.”

McWilliams must still change his party affiliation, which he said he intends to do Monday at the Union County Board of Elections.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: elections, mayor