Sunday, October 30, 2005

Second Forum Splits Voter, Candidate Choice

A new group called “Women Across the City“ is staging its own forum Tuesday (Nov. 1, 2005), countering the traditional League of Women Voters Forum.

While the League holds its forum for mayoral and City Council candidates at 7 p.m. in the Plainfield Public Library on Park Avenue, the new group will hold its forum at 7 p.m. in Washington Community School on Darrow Avenue.

Democratic mayoral candidate Sharon Robinson-Briggs and Assemblyman Jerry Green will take part in the alternate forum, Green said Saturday. Green said the new group, headed by Gloria Taylor, wife of former Mayor Richard L. Taylor, is inviting candidates for any level of government to its forum as long as they are "on the ballot".

Green said the local League of Women Voters had tailored its rules to allow incumbent Mayor Albert T. McWilliams to take part, even though he is not on the ballot. Only Robinson-Briggs and Independent Candidate Bob Ferraro are on the ballot.

McWilliams lost the June Democratic primary to Robinson-Briggs and then lost in court a bid to run for mayor in the general election as a Republican. Currently, he is running as a write-in candidate.

Green said the local League of Women Voters has McWilliams partisans among its members and has tarnished its reputation by allowing the mayor to take part.

The Plainfield League of Women Voters assumed that McWilliams was likely to get at least 15 percent of the mayoral vote. The League ran forum advertisements last week featuring responses on issues from McWilliams, Robinson-Briggs. Ferraro and City Council candidates.

Green insisted the local League had hurt itself by its stance and candidates were entitled to seek an alternate venue.

“Why get involved in a circus?“ he said.

Not everyone agrees with Green's assessment. "I've been living in this city for 30 years. [Politics here] is like a dynasty," Marion Fowler said.

"It's an insult to the people not to have [Robinson-Briggs] speak in the same forum. Who is she?" Fowler asked. "What's her platform?"

Ferraro said Saturday he also objects to allowing McWilliams to take part, but will be at the League forum.

“I’m not happy that they put him on, because he’s not a candidate,“ Ferraro said. “I was never a candidate when I did write-ins.”

Ferraro has run under both party banners and as an independent in various campaigns.

Regarding the League forum, he said, “Whether Sharon shows up or not, that doesn’t bother me.”

Others on the local ballot will also have to decide where to be on Nov. 1.

The local roster includes two candidates for the 2nd & 3rd Ward at-large seat, Democrat Rashid Burney and Republican Al Coleman Jr. and one 4th Ward candidate, Democrat Elliott Simmons who is running unopposed.

--Bernice Paglia, with additional reporting by Barbara Todd Kerr

KEYWORDS: politics, elections