UNION COUNTY, NJ — As New Jersey gears up for its November 2017 primaries, the Union County Democratic Committee has put in their official endorsement for several political candidates.
Democratic-backed candidates include Phil Murphy for governor, Union County Sheriff Joe Cryan for state Senate, and Hillside Mayor Angela Garretson for Union County freeholder.
Hillside, which has long been the focus regarding the 2018 mayoral elections, will see several candidates in the much-anticipated race for the township’s next mayor.
It has been confirmed by LocalSource that Garretson will not be running for reelection in 2018 as Hillside’s mayor.
The county’s Democratic Committee, along with local Democratic chairmen, all officially endorsed Garretson for freeholder at a meeting of the Democratic party on February 22.
Garretson will be replacing retiring Freeholder Vernell Wright. According to sources, Garretson has the support of U.S. Rep. Donald Payne and Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss.
Garretson told LocalSource that she feels honored to have been selected.
“I am humbled and honored to be selected to be nominated to be Democratic candidate for freeholder,” Garretson said in a Feb. 27 email. “Along with Freeholder Estrada and Freeholder Hudak, we will champion the values of the Democratic Party by continuously fighting to improve the quality of life for all Union County municipalities. Hillside will always be my home.”
The committee also backed incumbent freeholders Angel Estrada and Chris Hudak.
Kenilworth councilman and former Hillside police officer, Pete Corvelli, received the committee’s endorsement as Union County sheriff, to replace Joe Cryan, who has been endorsed for state senate. Cryan will be vying for State Sen. Raymond Lesniak’s seat in the 20th legislative district, and will be running unopposed in his primary campaign for the Senate.
Lesniak, who announced his bid for governor last month, will be running against Democrat Murphy in the primaries in June. Lesniak previously announced that he was not running for governor.
Union County Democratic Chairman, Jerry Green, told LocalSource that he depends on the local Democratic chairpersons to help make endorsements of political candidates.
“I depend on the local chairs a lot,” Green said in a Feb. 24 phone call. “I don’t make the decisions without asking the local chairs for their opinions. There is an open line of communication on issues. We’re more inclusive than we’ve ever been before.”
Green said that he consulted with local chairmen regarding endorsements for the gubernatorial race, as well as the freeholder candidates, among others.
“They are involved and help with the decisions and run their towns so that we look like a team,” Green said. “We think about what the Democratic party can do on a county and state level to make communities know that we care about them just as much during the year as on election day. Politics is local politics. That’s where it all starts.”
Union County Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen, told LocalSource that he is pleased that the Democratic party has a balanced ticket going into election season.
“I’m very pleased to see that Freeholders Hudak and Estrada will be running again,” Bergen said in a Feb. 24 phone call. “They are both experienced, thoughtful freeholders who bring their different perspectives to the board. It was a pleasure working with them, and I look forward to working with them again.”
Bergen said that he also looks forward to working with Garretson, and lauded Cryan as a great choice for the Senate.
“The Democratic party in Union County has put together a balanced ticket with experienced freeholders and new blood across various geographic areas of the county,” he said. “It’s the diverse ticket on various levels that Democrats strive for, and I think we’ve been very successful with that.”
Anthony Salters, Democratic chairman of Hillside, added, “I am excited for Mayor Garretson,” Salters told LocalSource in a Feb. 23 email. “Being a freeholder and developing legislation and policies is definitely a strength of hers.”
Salters lauded Cryan and Corvelli as well.
“Sheriff Cryan replacing Sen. Lesniak in Legislative District 20 is like one legend replacing another legend,” Salters said. “He will be great. Pete Corvelli, former Hillside police officer and Kenilworth Democratic Chairman, will be our Democratic Sheriff candidate. Pete is blunt, honest and always accessible.
Assemblywoman Quijano and Assemblyman Holley continue to make a formidable team representing us in Trenton. Our slate is highly qualified and diverse.”
Cryan told LocalSource that he hopes to be a part of making the voice of the legislative district heard in the state’s capital.
“I’m honored and humbled to have the support of the Democratic party for the 2017 Senate race,” Cryan said in a Feb. 23 email. “I believe as we watch what unfolds in Washington, that more and more of the conservative philosophy will be to shift issues to the states, and I want to be part of the debate. I believe in working families, organized labor, job creation and expanded educational opportunities for all, and I hope to make the voice of the 20th district heard in Trenton for the next four years.”
In Hillside, the race for mayor is heating up, as several candidates have come forth to officially announce their bids.
It has been confirmed by LocalSource that former Hillside councilman, Frank Deo, will be running for mayor of Hillside.
Hillside Councilman Sip Whitaker informed LocalSource last week that he will be running for the township’s next mayor. Longtime Hillside resident, as well as employee and treasurer of many Democratic organizations over the years, Artie Kobitz, will be joining Whitaker’s team and will be vying for seat on the town council.
Whitaker said that he decided to run to improve the quality of life in the township.
“I’ve been a resident of Hillside for 30 year and I do believe that the time has come for me and my running mates to address the issues that most concern the citizens of Hillside,” Whitaker told LocalSource in a Feb. 26 email. “During my tenure as councilman-at-large and the time spent running the Hillside Civic Center, I have seen many ways to improve the quality of life here in Hillside.
With the help of the team, we have put together a plan for safe, clean neighborhoods, which I will share in the near future.”
Kobitz released a statement to LocalSource regarding his run for Hillside’s town council.
“I can no longer stand by and watch the last two administrations destroy this town that I have lived in for most of my life,” Kobitz said in a Feb. 23 statement. “The police department is at an all-time low which makes me feel unsafe, and believe me, we have one of the best departments around under the guidance of our chief.”
Kobitz also noted issues with the township’s unpaid bills, lost grant monies and jobs not getting done, and said that he hopes that the Whitaker-Kobitz ticket will get Hillside where it needs to be.
“I have asked Sip Whitaker if I can run on his team and he has welcomed me with open arms,” Kobitz said. “I feel the Whitaker team can bring Hillside back to where it once was.”
Former Hillside Councilwoman Salonia Saxton also told LocalSource that she will be running for mayor in the township.
“I love Hillside and I am very concerned about the direction that it is going in,” Saxton said in a Feb. 23 statement. “Hillside deserves a mayor that is willing to stand on the front line to get the job done. Being a mayor is about having a vision and turning that vision into reality. Therefore, my commitment to Hillside will be to serve a township that is, and has always been, a township of promise and possibility.”
No other candidates in Hillside had announced their bids for mayor as of press time.