Former Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Roselle) has filed paperwork with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission for a mayoral campaign this year in Roselle, potentially setting up a comeback for the erstwhile legislator.
If he runs, Holley, who did not respond to a request for comment, would face off against incumbent Mayor Donald Shaw in the Democratic primary. Union County Democrats don’t have a good relationship with Holley, so he’ll have to run without the county organizational line.
Holley already served as mayor once before, from 2012 until his departure in 2015 after he won a special election to the State Assembly. Despite being a loyal Democrat on most issues, he developed an idiosyncratic brand in the legislature, particularly on the issue of vaccines, which he repeatedly and unscientifically argued are dangerous.
Facing the prospect of losing party support for a fourth term in 2021, Holley jumped ship from the Assembly and ran a quixotic primary campaign against State Sen. Joe Cryan (D-Union). The campaign didn’t go anywhere, and Cryan won 63%-34%.
But in Roselle alone, Holley beat Cryan 58%-40%, indicating he still has significant personal support in his 23,000-person hometown.
There’s also recent precedent for successful off-the-line campaigns in Roselle. In 2019, incumbent Mayor Christine Dansereau lost party support for another term, but managed to win the Democratic primary 42%-34% against none other than Donald Shaw. (Dansereau resigned in 2020 for health reasons, and Shaw won the special election to succeed her.)