Georgia Scott, the first Black woman and first Democratic woman to win a seat on the Passaic County Board of Freeholders, died on August 22. She was 74.
Republicans had a 7-0 majority on the freeholder board when Scott made her first bid for office in 1996.
Passaic County Democrats picked Scott and Clifton Councilman Peter Eagler to run against four-term incumbent Charles Delahanty and Ringwood Councilman Walter Davison. The other freeholder, Richard DuHaime, was giving up his freeholder seat to seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
Scott was well-known in Paterson as the founder of the Loving Care Early Learning Center.
Two weeks before the election, Scott and Eagler seized on a fresh issue: the indictment of Passaic County Parks Supervisor Edward Adamo on 117 criminal counts alleging the misuse of his office. Adamo’s father was a Republican freeholder.
The Democrats called on the State Commission of Investigation to launch a probe of county government activities.
The next day, another GOP freeholder announced his plans to resign.
John C. Morley had served concurrently as a freeholder and as executive director of the Passaic County Utilities Authority and – just to make a point — waited until a judge found that he could legally hold both jobs before stepping down.
Eagler was the top vote-getter, running about 2,000 votes ahead of Scott. Scott defeated Delahanty by about 6,000 votes, with Davison trailing his running mate by about 3,500.
Passaic County went heavily Democratic in 1996.
Bill Clinton carried Passaic by 21 points over Bob Dole, and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bob Torricelli won it by 13 points. In that election, Paterson Mayor/Assemblyman Bill Pascrell was elected to Congress, carrying the Passaic County portion of the district by a 54%-45% against freshman Rep. Bill Pascrell (R-Clifton).
In her bid for re-election in 1999, Scott and Eagler faced a primary challenge from former Paterson school board member Nilda Torres. The incumbents won the primary by a margin of nearly 4-1.
Scott and Eagler defeated the Republican candidates, Clifton Councilman Jack Welsh and former freeholder Jack O’Brien, in the general election by a wide margin. Eagler received about 1,000 more votes than Scott, who ran about 5,000 votes ahead of Welsh and 6,000 ahead of O’Brien.
During his second term, Scott often battled some of her fellow Democrat on what had become a 5-2 majority on the Board of Freeholders. She challenged Sheriff Jerry Speziale’s move to run the county juvenile detention center.
At one point in early 2002, Scott said that she was considering running for mayor of Paterson.
About one month before the 2002 filing deadline, Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie announced that he would not support Scott for re-election in a contest where Republicans were hoping to regain control.
Scott said she was being dumped because she refused to follow Currie’s orders.
Instead, Currie backed Elease Evans, who ran the Passaic County Board of Social Services, to run with Eagler.
Scott decided not to run off-the-line in the Democratic primary and instead announced that she would run as an independent. Currie challenged Scott’s nominating petitions. Her attorney, Angelo Genova, persuaded a judge to rule that her signatures were valid.
In post-9/11 New Jersey, President George W. Bush had massive approval ratings and Republicans though Scott might peal enough votes off the Democratic line to let Wayne Councilman William Van Gieson and Clifton businesswoman Fran Tufaro win.
That would have shifted the freeholder board to a 4-3 Republican majority.
Scott wound up with about 7,500 votes countywide – not enough to cost Democrats their seats.
Eagler finished first, almost 1,000 votes ahead of Evans. Van Gieson and Tufaro came in about 6,000 votes behind Evans.
Scott died at her home in Florida.
She is survived by her three children and seven grandchildren and was predeceased by her husband, Waldron, and her seven-year-old granddaughter, Natasha.
A celebration of her life will be held at the Tree of Life Ministries in Lynchburg, Virginia on Saturday.