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Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Nicholas Scutari. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

300 county committee seats contested in Union Dem fight

Scutari seeks to pick up seats; rivals challenge in Linden, Plainfield, others

By David Wildstein, April 02 2019 12:28 am

About 300 county committee seats are being contested in Union County, where State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) is seeking re-election to a second term as Democratic county chairman in June.

Linden, Union, Plainfield, Roselle, Rahway, Clark, Cranford and Fanwood face county committee fights, with some scattered contests in four other municipalities.

Scutari won the post in 2018 after defeating Fanwood mayor Colleen Mahr by 71 votes, 412 to 341.  A shift of just 35 votes would have had a different outcome.

Allies of Mahr are mounting some of the challenges, although Scutari and his allies are also seeking to increase their ranks.

There are three slates running in the June Democratic primary: the county organization backed by Scutari, one aligned with Linden mayor Derek Armstead, and a third backed by Roselle mayor Christine Dansereau.  The three factions have mounted full slates for freeholder, and in some cases have Assembly candidates.

Jim Devine, a controversial Democrat with ties to Armstead, was involved in putting together some of the opposition slates.  In a recent executive session of the Linden City Council, Armstead proposed hiring Devine, the partner of former U.S. Senate candidate Lisa McCormick, as a public relations consultant for the city. Armstead dropped the idea after receiving some pushback.

McCormick filed to run for Union County surrogate.

Armstead, a fierce Scutari rival, has fielded a slate of 64 county committee candidates for 72 seats in a direct challenge to Scutari’s post as Democratic municipal chairman.  Scutari has filed a full slate, so Armstead is also defending seats he already controls.  Scutari won Linden by a 50-20 votes in 2018.

In Roselle, Dansereau is running off the line with Scutari and Armstead backing different candidates.  Thirty county committee seats are being contested.  Scutari beat Mahr 27-7.

Plainfield mayor/Democratic municipal chairman Adrian Mapp, a Scutari ally, faces a fight over 68 county committee seats – the opposition is split between the Armstead and Roselle slates.  Plainfield went for Scutari by a 40-22 vote.

Union Township, where State Sen. Joseph Cryan (D-Union) is the municipal chairman, is fighting over 58 seats.  The opposition to Cryan’s candidates is being led by his rival, Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Roselle).  Union was a huge stronghold for Mahr; she won all 93 county committee votes there.

Mahr beat Scutari in Fanwood by a 12-1 vote; the one dissenter was Union County freeholder Alexander Mirabella.  Mahr withdrew support of Mirabella, who is now on a Scutari ticket contesting 14 seats.

In Clark, which went for Mahr 19-7, the factions are fighting over 27 county committee seats.  There is also a battle in Rahway over 17 seats in a town that Scutari won 47-1.    In Cranford, where Scutari and Mahr tied at 23 each, 14 seats are being contested.

There are also a handful of county committee races in Elizabeth (4), Scotch Plains (2), Westfield (2) and New Providence (1).

The election for county chairman will be the week after the primary.

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