Friday, August 04, 2006

Dems Favor Gibson For Vacancy

Faced with providing three nominees for a City Council vacancy due to the untimely death of Ray Blanco, Democrats will field a slate that showcases former city administrator Harold Gibson.

At a meeting Friday (Aug. 4, 2006) the Democratic City Committee observed a moment of silence for the late City Council president, who had an apparent heart attack a week ago at age 50.

Blanco was the first Hispanic member of the governing body, but Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Green said a push for another Latino to fill the position was embarrassing. He cited a press conference Monday (July 31, 2006) in which the Latin American Coalition called for an Hispanic successor to Blanco.

Green called the timing inappropriate and said, “We will not be used or intimidated by anyone.“

Green said he received three resumes for the vacancy, from Julie Jerome, Christian Estevez and Gibson.

Jerome was not present to make a speech, but Estevez cited his lifelong ties with Plainfield, his devotion to social justice and his active participation in campaigns not only of Blanco, but Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Gov. Jon Corzine. He said his education was in Latino and labor studies. In the AFL-CIO, he works to recruit and train women and minorities.

Gibson spoke of his 50 years in public service in Essex and Union counties as well as in Plainfield. He served dual roles at city and county levels while only receiving one salary, he said. He is presently the county's public safety director.

Just before the vote, former Mayor Harold Mitchell offered a slate that excluded Estevez.

Mitchell offered the names of Hattie Williams, Gibson and Sylvester Palin.

Some other slates were offered, but the committee first voted on the one that excluded Estevez and it won, with 45 of 68 possible committee members present. The vote was 34-11 in favor of the slate.

After the vote, Green brought Estevez up to pledge allegiance to the party, meaning he would not file as an Independent by Sept. 20 to be on the November ballot. Green referred several times to a “farm team” approach whereby candidates would serve locally and learn the ropes of politics before running for office. He suggested that Estevez could gain experience in time for future elections.

Whoever wins among the three nominees will only serve until the Nov. 7 general election. Then the public will vote for anybody who filed as a Democrat, Republican or Independent by Sept. 20.

Flor Gonzalez, president of the Latin American Coalition, said there may well be a Latino candidate filing to be on the ballot, but she refused to say more.

--Bernice Paglia


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