Primary race set in Linden as Dem. candidates line up

LINDEN – There will be a full slate of Democrat mayoral candidates in the Linden primary, but exactly who will end up on the ballot in November is up for grabs.

Both Democrats and Republicans had until Monday to submit petitions if they intended to run in the primary, but considering the number of various Democratic political party candidates vying for the mayor’s seat, there won’t be room enough on the ballot for everyone.
Mayor Rich Gerbounka has not decided if he will run again for the mayor’s seat, but as an independent, he has until June 5 to make that decision. On the other hand, the Democrats have handed in their petitions and the die is cast and one of them could end up being mayor.

“Right now I have a lot of people encouraging me to run again, but I’m still undecided,” said the mayor late Tuesday.

Three different branches of the Democratic party came forward with candidates, including the Regular Democrat Organization, who backed 5th Ward councilwoman Rhashonna Cosby-Hurling; True Democrats for Change who put up 4th Ward Councilman Derek Armstead for the seat; and Democrats for Change who offered Michael Puzio as a candidate.
The Republicans offered no candidate for mayor.

The only candidate that returned phone calls was Crosby-Hurling, who explained why she was running for the mayor’s seat.
“I am gratified to receive the support of the Linden City Democratic Committee,” said the 5th Ward Councilwoman. “For too long Linden residents have suffered tax increases and service cuts due to failed leadership. It’s time for a new direction and a better future for the city of Linden.”

The other mayoral candidates did not respond to calls made Monday and Tuesday.

Although it is still early in the primary race, information about whether Armstead was actually a qualified candidate surfaced late last week. According to several sources, the 4th Ward councilman is again in arrears in taxes involving several properties he owns in Linden, and, in addition, has yet to pay his garbage tax, which he supported last year when the city was having budget problems.

LocalSource was able to verify this information by obtaining documents from the city tax assessor which confirmed that the councilman is the owner of properties located at 734 Harrison Place, 1207 Lincoln St. and 812 St. George Ave. In addition, his wife, Diane Orelien, is the owner of a property at 516 Carnegie St. that has taxes in arrears.

Including property taxes, sewer and garbage tax, Armstead and his wife owe the city a total of $41,295.23 for 2013 and 2014.
Armstead did not return multiple calls prior to press time.