Monday, April 10, 2006

Filings Produce No Primary Contests

Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green’s call for unity this year may have worked.

On March 17, Green announced his City Council slate, two incumbents who gained office with support of former Mayor Albert T. McWilliams. The two-term mayor was defeated in the June 2005 primary and failed to win a third term with a write-in campaign in what became one of the city’s most contentious political seasons in many years.

Not only have Councilmen Rashid Burney and Rayland Van Blake opted for party solidarity, no other Democrats broke the calm by coming forward Monday (April 10, 2006) to contest the party’s choice.

Burney was an appointee to the City Council after former Councilman Adrian Mapp became a Union County Freeholder and vacated the 2nd & 3rd Ward at-large seat. Burney then successfully ran in November for the balance of the term, which ends Dec. 31. Now he will be seeking a full four-year term.

Van Blake unseated 16-year incumbent Elizabeth Urquhart to gain the 1st Ward seat in November 2002, taking office Jan. 1, 2003. He will be running for a second four-year term.

Although there were rumblings that former City Administrator Harold Gibson wanted to challenge Burney and Urquhart might seek her seat back, no such challenge emerged at the March 17 meeting at which Green, also Assemblyman in the 22nd District, named the two incumbents.

So it seems it’s on to November, when the two Democrats will face off with Republicans.

The GOP is backing Arlington Johnson for the 1st Ward and Angela L. Perun for the 2nd & 3rd Ward at-large seat. The party must also reorganize this year, selecting committee members for two-year terms and choosing a chairman, also to serve two years.

Republican Party Chairwoman Sandy Spector spoke enthusiastically Monday of Johnson, who previously ran for a school board seat. Spector called him “a really impressive guy,“ citing his work with young people in the community.

Perun, a retired lawyer, has a formidable political track record as a former councilwoman and state Assemblywoman and is known for being outspoken on politics at all levels.

However, with only about 1,200 registered Republicans in the city versus more than 9,000 Democrats, the GOP will have to rely on unaffiliated voters - about 8,800 last year - for extra votes.

Spector said she was not able to fill all the 68 committee slots with candidates. But she said, “We’re committed to doing a significant job of party rebuilding.
“Watch us grow,” she said.

Primary Day, June 6, is when independent candidates must file, so there might be another name or so on the November ballot. But barring a stealth write-in campaign, city Democrats will have few distractions from what Green described as the need for all-out support of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.

Green told the committee at a February 24 meeting, “There will not be any Democrats for Tom Kean coming out of this city - I‘m not going to tolerate it.”

Menendez was named to replace Jon Corzine when the former senator became governor. He faces State Sen. Tom Kean Jr. in what is expected to be a tight race.

--Bernice Paglia


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