Brown suggests he’ll resign Linden council over campaign battle

LINDEN, NJ — A city councilman and ally of the current mayor said June 4 he intends to resign from his seat due to the nasty primary election campaign in the city, but has yet to officially do so.

Third Ward Councilman Peter Brown Jr. told LocalSource he plans to resign due to the divide in city politics, putting the onus on the Union County Democratic Committee chairman, state Sen. Nicholas Scutari.

The senator, who represents the 22nd Legislative District, which includes Linden, did not endorse incumbent Mayor Derek Armstead, the winner of the June 5 Democratic primary. Scutari instead endorsed Ward 10 Councilwoman Gretchen Hickey for mayor, causing a bitter campaign leading up to the primary.

“I don’t like the direction of the leadership of Nick Scutari,” Brown said in a June 4 phone interview, later adding: “When you run negative campaigns that are based off of emotions … it builds a lot of resentment.”

Brown said he planned to announce his resignation to the full Linden City Council at a June 7 special meeting, but did not show up. He said he did not attend the council meeting because he had a business meeting at that time.

“I don’t have a time for when I’m stepping down, but I definitely am,” Brown said in a follow up phone interview on June 12, adding that he’s “sitting down with my friends and family to find out when that date is.”

Brown said he definitely will not run for re-election once his term ends. His intention to resign was news to the mayor.
“I really don’t have any thoughts on that right now,” Armstead said June 8. “I don’t really know why he would want to resign.”
Brown said he wants to get away from the political tensions in the city, adding that he sat down with Scutari after he was elected UCDC chairman, warning of a “nuclear war” between the different Democratic factions in the city.

“After this election, two things are gonna happen: either things are going to get worse or they’re going to get better,” Brown said, adding, “I don’t want any part of it, because when I joined politics, that’s not what it was about.”

Armstead prevailed over Hickey and fellow Councilwoman Rhashonna Cosby, receiving about 2,405 votes, or 58 percent of the more than 6,600 votes cast. Hickey received about 36 percent and Cosby about 5 percent.

The campaign was marked by allegations of campaign finance and ethics violations, abuse of municipal departments for political purposes and charges by Armstead that Cosby was a spoiler candidate seeking to draw votes away from him.

The UCDC is still reeling from an internal power struggle following the resignation earlier this year of its chairman, former state Assemblyman Jerry Green, who died in April.

Two contenders emerged for Green’s position in the county Democratic Party: Scutari and Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr. In January, Scutari originally supported Armstead for mayor. However, the senator pulled that endorsement after Armstead supported Mahr over him.

The UCDC selects county freeholders and state legislators when seats are vacated. An endorsement from the UCDC gives candidates the prominence and financial support that is usually needed to win during an election.

Even if Brown were to leave his council post, the mayor would still have a council that is mostly supportive of him.
Brown said he wants to focus on his family and pursuing a doctoral degree in psychology. He will also continue to work with his nonprofit organization, One Linden One Direction.

If Brown were to step down, the Linden Democratic Committee, which Scutari also heads, would have to put forth three candidates to fill the the vacated council seat. City council would select one of those candidates.

Brown said he was aware that the local Democratic committee would probably tap candidates who are supportive of Scutari, who is also a municipal prosecutor in Linden.

“I know Nick is going to find someone that’s going to support him,” Brown said. “In order to protect his job. Remember, he’s the the municipal prosecutor.”

Brown began his first term in 2011. His current term is slated to end in 2019.