Green resignation as Dem Party chair sets off scramble

Photo Courtesy of Colleen Mahr
Fanwood Mayor and Acting Union County Democratic Chairwoman Colleen Mahr.
Photo Courtesy of Anthony Salters
Hillside Democratic Committee Chairman Anthony Salters.
Photo Courtesy of N.J. Sen. Nicholas Scutari
Nicholas Scutari, right, knocks on Democratic committee members’ doors with Plainfield Mayor Adrian Map.

UNION COUNTY, NJ — The full Union County Democratic Committee of about 800 members will meet Feb. 21 to vote for a new chairperson and vice chairperson.

The upcoming vote was spurred by the resignation of state Assemblyman Jerry Green, the committee’s former chairman. Green, who represents areas including Linden, Rahway and Clark, resigned due to an illness. He plans to rejoin his colleagues in the state Assembly once he’s fully recovered, he said.

“In consultation with my medical providers, family, friends, and colleagues, I have concluded that the arduous recovery process prevents me from effectively serving as the chairman of the Union County Democratic Committee,” Green said in a Jan. 24 statement.

At least three Democrats have publicly tossed their hats into the ring for chairperson, including Vice Chairwoman and Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr, who is currently the party’s acting chairperson in the wake Green’s resignation. State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, the Linden Democratic chairman, and Anthony Salters, the Hillside Democratic Committee chairman, have also announced their interest in the Green’s seat.

The candidates’ endorsements have shown alliances between state and local officials and rifts within municipalities. One political insider compared the election for the county’s Democratic Party leader to “civil war.”

Scutari is running with the backing of Green, who also serves with him in the 22nd Legislative District. Also supporting him is Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage.

“I will work tirelessly to ensure qualified candidates are elected up and down the ballot in November so that our values are represented not just in Washington D.C., but in Trenton and in our own backyard in Union County,” Scutari said in a Jan. 24 statement.

Linden Mayor Derek Armstead announced his candidacy for vice chairman of the committee as Mahr’s running mate. Armstead’s announcement showed his opposition for Scutari, his city’s municipal prosecutor and Assemblyman.

“I stand in full support of Colleen Mahr to be the next chair of our county party and I am running as her vice chair,” Armstead said in a statement. “As a fellow mayor, Colleen knows how important it is to listen to all opinions and include every stakeholder. She has been a strong, visionary leader for our party and I will be asking county committee members to vote for us so we can continue fighting for Democrats throughout the county.”

Also supporting him, among several others, is Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, whose city does not lie within Scutari’s district.

Armstead’s candidacy, in turn, has highlighted those on city council who support him and others who don’t. Council women Rhashonna Cosby and Gretchen Hickey tossed their support to Scutari, while the remaining councilmembers have endorsed Mahr.

Meanwhile, Salters announced his candidacy Jan. 31 in a column published on Insidernj.com. He said in a Feb. 2 phone interview that he offers a third option to “bring the party together.” Although he has no public endorsements yet, he said the upcoming vote will show his supporters.

“All I want to do is be the chairperson,” Salters wrote. “I will focus totally on the growth and success of the Union County Democratic County Committee. I do not aspire, nor will I seek, to hold any other elective office. Our effort needs to focus on the coordinated effort of federal, state, and county representatives to deliver more resources to the 21 municipalities in Union County.”

Anyone who is on the Union County Democratic Committee, even those those who haven’t publicly announced their candidacy for the seats, can run in the Feb. 21 closed-door convention at the Grand Centurion in Clark at 7 p.m.

“I’m looking forward to speaking with even more of our committee members over the next three weeks in advance of the vote to explain our vision for the party’s future,” Mahr said in a Feb. 1 statement. “I am also uniquely committed to making sure our meeting on the 21st provides people with the opportunity to vote in a respectful, transparent environment that protects the integrity of each of our committee member’s votes.”

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