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Assembly candidate Stacey Gunderman. (Photo by Nikita Biryukov)

Gunderman ouster a surprise to Assembly candidate

Candidate calls the coup an amicable affair

By Nikita Biryukov, June 12 2019 1:24 pm

Assembly candidate Stacey Gunderman did not know New Providence Democratic Municipal Chairwoman Rupa Kale would seek the role before Monday, when Kale’s surprise candidacy pushed Gunderman to withdraw and avoid a re-election bid to the head of the town’s Democratic committee.

“It’s something that happened rather organically in the room, and sometimes that’s how the best things occur, just when people step up and move forward,” Gunderman said, adding that she did not know Kale intended to seek the seat before Monday, the day of the committee’s reorganization.

Gunderman twice declined to say if she was concerned about the perception of a coup in her hometown’s committee affecting her bid to oust Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Summit).

She said the loss of her position at the head of New Providence’s Democrats would provide her with more time to challenge the incumbents.

“I actually withdrew myself from consideration so that I could specifically focus on the assembly race because my committee supports me as a Democratic candidate for Assembly,” Gunderman said. “They want to see me be able to flourish in that role, and that’s what we’re focused on now.”

Gunderman and Lisa Mandelblatt last week defeated Jill LaZare to gain the Democratic nod to challenge the two Republican incumbents.

Gunderman said the ouster was an amicable affair, and Kale told the New Jersey Globe much the same, saying that the town’s Democrats were fully behind Gunderman’s Assembly bid.

“We look forward to canvassing with her,” Kale said. “We have a local candidate that we are supporting and hope to see him get elected and hope to make a dent — maybe third times the charm — and look forward to supporting Stacey in it as well.”

Kale said that, while some succession talks had taken place, nothing was concrete on Monday, when Kale took helm of the organization.

Gunderman said much the same, though she demurred on whether Kale was her pick as the organization’s next chairperson.

“We hadn’t had a full successor plan yet, but it’s something that I wanted to do because the health of any organization depends upon having a successor,” Gunderman said. “When we started two years ago, it was fast and furious, and we kind of just all picked up our skills and did whatever we could without thinking about long-term planning. Now that we were two years in, it’s a good opportunity for us to think about that long-term strategic planning and successor relationships.”

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