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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Mapp's City Committee slate faces opposition by former mayor, former allies, and community heavyweights

As I predicted, there is an all-out contest for the
Plainfield Democratic City Committee.

More than one hundred and thirty people filed petitions to run for Plainfield Democratic City Committee seats by the deadline of 4:00 PM Monday, April 1.

For a complete side-by-side list of ALL candidates, go here.

Four "slates" of candidates filed, though one is composed only of a wife and husband.

Among those challenging Chairman Mapp's slate are --
  • a former mayor,
  • a former candidate for mayor,
  • a former councilor,
  • a former City Council candidate,
  • the retiring fire chief
  • the former long-time president of the PBA,
  • two sitting school board members,
  • two former school board members,
  • the mayor's former chief of staff,
  • the mayor's former campaign manager, and
  • the sitting PDCC treasurer.

Former mayor Harold Mitchell is legendary for winning an upset victory over the late Assemblyman Jerry Green in a contest for control of the city committee when Green was still regarded as a newcomer and a usurper sent to Plainfield by the county party in order to exercise control over the local Democrats.

"Mitch" as he is known to everyone, has roots that go back to before Democrats came to power in Plainfield. He operated a popular barber shop for decades on Richmond Street and has been a PDCC member for decades.

Another challenger, retiring Fire Chief Frank Tidwell is facing off against Mayor Mapp directly in the contest for the Ward 3, District 9 seat. Mapp has been unopposed for years in that district.

(Years ago, Assemblyman Green was unseated by upstart Peter Janis, who ran a write-in campaign and beat the Assemblyman in his own district (2-6). Green never ran for the seat again after that defeat.)

In order to be on the ballot, candidates must meet certain criteria: they must be registered Democrats, reside in the district, gather a certain number of signatures (which can vary) and designate a slogan of up to five words (which appears on the ballot and any campaign literature).

Chairman Mapp has assembled a full slate of 68 candidates (one female and one male for each of 34 districts) for the Regular Democratic Organization. Nearly a third are new recruits after Mapp declined to run those who had opposed him in the contest to replace the late Assemblyman Jerry Green after he stepped down as county chair in early 2018.

A second large and citywide slate is running under the slogan "Democrats United for Plainfield".

Among the well-known candidates on the Dems United slate (ward and district in brackets) are Martin R. Cox (1-3), Ricky Williams (1-2), Jason Greer (1-7), Carletta Jeffers (2-5),  Terrence Bellamy (2-7), Andre Crawford (2-2), Emily Morgan (3-6), Richard Wyatt (3-7), Frankie Tidwell (3-9), and Harold Mitchell (4-4).

Andre Crawford is a retired Plainfield police officer and former longtime president of the PBA. Williams is a well-known Plainfield firefighter and commissioner of the Plainfield Housing Authority.

Greer is known for his involvement with youth sports (the baseball field at Hub-Stine is named after his uncle Joe Black,who was the first Black player to win a World Series, while playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. You can read my post about that here.).

Bellamy and Jeffers are former school board members. Wyatt is currently the school board president and Morgan is the immediate past president.

Additionally, former City Council candidate Henrilynn Ibezim is running on the People First slate. This slate also includes Jim Spear (2-8), Mayor Mapp's former campaign manager; Mary Burgwinkle (2-9), the current PDCC treasurer; Sean McKenna (2-9), who is running against Councilor Cory Storch; and John Stewart (3-1), Mapp's former chief of staff. The slate also includes several sitting PDCC members that Chairman Mapp passed over in this year's selection process.

The final slate, "Progressive Democrats" consists solely of former Council president Bridget Rivers and her husband Raymond Edwards, who are seeking the male and female seats in Ward 4, District 3.


Troubles for Plainfield's Democratic paradise began in 2018, when Chairman Mapp thought to deliver the entire 68 committee votes to Sen. Nick Scutari in the contest to succeed Green as UCDC chair.

Without consulting the PDCC or its Executive Committee, Mapp announced the committee's support for Scutari, creating a sensation in the press (see here).

This caused considerable uproar in the PDCC as a number of members felt they were offered no part in the decision (see my post here).

(One member pointed out to me that both the state and Union County organizations' bylaws provide that members cannot be forced to vote against their conscience.)

The rift continued under the surface, with a decided chill falling over the committee.

Then in September, disaffected member Jim Spear and long-time Mapp supporter Sean McKenna worked on the independent candidacy of Ron Johnson for the citywide at-large seat against Elton Armady, who was appointed by the Council to the seat after Rebecca Williams became Freeholder; Armady then the November special election (not the June Primary as I had previously stated).

Johnson failed to win a single district. At the time (see my post here), my take was that Johnson was a stalking-horse for a McKenna candidacy against Cory Storch in 2019. And here we are today (see my January post about what might happen here).

The various slates have a certain period of time to check the petitions of the other slates to verify that all the signers are a) registered Democrats, and b) residents of the district in which they signed a petition. This often leads to a court fight over some petitions and their subsequent disqualification.

After that comes the drawing for ballot positions. The RDO slate will obviously be on the Regular Democratic Organization line. The other slates present an interesting challenge for County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi, who must design the ballot for each of the county's 21 municipalities.

The Dems United and People First slates line up perfectly, with no contending candidates. Is that a coincidence? Does it mean they will appear in one column on the ballot?

Stay tuned as the Primary campaign season heats up leading up to the June 4 Primary election.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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