Thursday, September 22, 2005

The 'other' Republican on the November ballot

Al Coleman doesn’t yet know whether he will be the only city Republican on the November ballot or whether he will have a unique new running mate in Mayor Albert T. McWilliams.

McWilliams lost the June Democratic primary to party chairman Jerry Green’s candidate, Sharon Robinson-Briggs, after county Democrats dumped the mayor off the line at the last minute. In the past couple of weeks, Republican mayoral candidate Cheryl Arana dropped out and McWilliams became a Republican in order to accept the Plainfield GOP’s offer to fill the vacancy.

The city and county GOP delivered necessary papers Tuesday to Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi, but on Wednesday Rajoppi rejected the filing, citing a state “sore loser” statute that says a person whose name appears on the ballot for a primary election as a candidate of one party may not be eligible to serve as the candidate of another party at the general election the same year.

Now the matter is in the courts and may not be resolved for days or weeks. Republicans want the printing of Plainfield ballots held up until it is resolved.

Coleman, a mortgage banker, is challenging incumbent Democrat Rashid Burney for the one-year unexpired balance of a term representing the 2nd and 3rd Wards. Republicans did not file any candidate to run for a four-year term representing the 4th Ward, leaving Democrat Elliott Simmons unopposed.

While the courtroom drama continues, Coleman is campaigning on his belief that the city needs a bipartisan offering to voters.

"It has been my contention that a one-party system does not work," he said.

While only Democrats had a choice in the June primary, all the city's 19,000 voters can have their say on Nov. 8.

Coleman says he wants to "lead by example" and notes he has renovated six Plainfield homes over the last year and a half. In addition, he said, he plans to open the Bankers and Brokers Jazz Club in the former Rusty Spigot on Watchung Avenue as well as a "five-star restaurant" to draw people from throughout the metropolitan area. He also wants to bring in more investors to the downtown area, he said.

In appealing to residents across the board, Coleman said, "We need people that will stand up for what they believe in."

Asked about his view of McWilliams' eight-year tenure, Coleman said, "He can do a good job. I feel that he was in the right direction."

With McWilliams' status up in the air, Al Coleman doesn't yet know whether he will be the only city Republican on the November ballot or whether he will have a unique new running mate in Mayor Albert T. McWilliams.

The local ballot includes Robinson-Briggs and Independent Robert Ferraro for mayor, Simmons unopposed for the 4th Ward seat and Coleman and Burney vying for the unexpired 2nd and 3rd Ward term.

Meanwhile, the state Attorney General's office may get involved Monday, according to GOP attorney Phil Morin. That's because the challenge is an attack on the constitutionality of a state statute. It is possible, Morin said, that Peter Harvey's office will submit a brief arguing that the statute is constitutional.

"Obviously, we differ with them," Morin said.

On Wednesday (Sept. 28, 2005) there will be a final hearing in Elizabeth with Union County Superior Court Judge Walter Barisonek at which time there may be a ruling on the issues presented Thursday. Morin said the judge could give a decision from the bench or could reserve his decision for 24 hours.

So far, Democrats have not intervened, but the possibility of a challenge remains.

Meanwhile, Coleman keeps up his mantra: "Our politicians need to understand something. They're in office to represent the people in the town."

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: politics