EAST ORANGE, NJ — Former East Orange Councilwoman and Essex County Freeholder Carol Clark said she and other prospective candidates seeking to run against the dominant local Democratic committees’ party line in the primary on Tuesday, June 4, have been labeled as “disgruntled” in recent media reports, and she disagrees with the label.
Clark is seeking to obtain enough signatures from registered eligible voters on nominating petitions to run for the post of register of deeds and mortgages currently occupied by former Newark Councilwoman Dana Rone. She has joined forces with Dwight Saunders, a former East Orange councilman and code enforcement director, to form the new East Orange Progressive Democrats and Essex County Progressive Democrats teams and field a full slate of candidates in the city and Essex County.
“I am not disgruntled. Nobody promised me anything. I’m running for a vacant seat. Jacqueline Johnson chose not to run for re-election, so that seat is open,” said Clark on Wednesday, Feb. 27. “People like to say Khalfani Alleyne is running against Saybrooks, but that’s not true. Khalfani Alleyne is running for a vacant seat. Period.”
Clark was referring to Alleyne, the Orange code enforcement director who ran unsuccessfully in 2017 for the 2nd Ward seat formerly held by Romal Bullock, the city’s current tax assessor. She was also referring to prospective 2nd Ward City Council candidate Brittany Claybrooks, who is running to fill the seat of incumbent 2nd Ward Councilwoman Jacqueline Johnson.
Johnson will not run for re-election this year and has said she wants Claybrooks to succeed her.
“I’m supporting Brittany Claybrooks,” said Johnson on Monday, Feb. 18. “She’s not in it for the title. She’s got some skills that the city needs.”
Veteran 3rd Ward Councilwoman Quilla Talmadge has also recently announced she will not run for re-election and has endorsed East Orange Board of Education member Vernon Pullins to succeed her in the 3rd Ward.
“I am not running for re-election,” said Talmadge on Monday, Feb. 18. “I’m supporting Vernon Pullins.”
According to East Orange City Clerk Cynthia Brown, one council seat from each of the city’s five wards are up for grabs in the June primary.
“All five seats are up,” said Brown on Tuesday, Feb. 18. “Amy Lewis in the 1st Ward. Open 2nd Ward seat, because Councilwoman Jacqueline Johnson is not running for re-election. Open 3rd Ward seat, because Councilwoman Quilla Talmadge is not running. Councilman Casim Gomez in the 4th Ward and Councilman Mustafa Brent in the 5th Ward.”
Brown said there will be a special election in the primary to fill the unexpired term of Tyshammie Cooper in the 4th Ward. Tamika Garrett-Ward was appointed to take over Cooper’s seat after she won election to the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders last year.
But Brown said that, just because people picked up nominating petitions from her office doesn’t necessarily mean they will get enough valid signatures on them to get on to the ballot.
“Sometimes, petitions are picked up and not filed,” said Brown. “So we won’t know who the actual candidates are until petitions are filed April 1, at 4 p.m. and certified by me. With the exception of the unexpired terms, all others will have to run in the November general election.”
Royston Allman, a former 5th Ward City Council candidate who is a member of the Ampere Parkway Civic Association and “Change Makers” radio show host also said he picked up petitions to run in the primary. Alleyne is running against Saybrooks in the 2nd Ward and Clark said that’s OK.
“Why wouldn’t they run? Yes, throw your hat in the ring. It makes perfect sense,” Clark said. “The primary is a family fight. At the end of the day, we’re all going to come together. Let’s not have the Democratic Party drive a wedge into the party.”