EAST ORANGE, NJ — Thirteen candidates for East Orange City Council submitted their nominating petitions to the office of city clerk Cynthia Brown by the official filing deadline of Monday, April 1, making for a crowded field.
Those who filed include: 1st Ward Councilwoman Amy Lewis, 4th Ward Councilman Casim Gomez, 4th Ward Councilwoman Tameika Garrett-Ward, 5th Ward Councilman Mustafa Brent, prospective 2nd Ward candidate Brittany Claybrooks and prospective 3rd Ward candidate Vernon Pullins of the Essex County Democratic Committee Inc. The list also includes prospective candidates from the Essex County Progressive Democrats Inc., with Mia Williamson in the 1st Ward; Kalfani Alleyne in the 2nd Ward; Chijike Ndukwu the 3rd Ward; East Orange Chamber of Commerce President Patrick Reid in the 4th Ward to fill the unexpired term of former Councilwoman and current Essex County Freeholder Tyshammie Cooper; and Royston Allman in the 5th Ward.
Brown said Gerard Georges also filed petitions to run in the 2nd Ward contest to replace outgoing 2nd Ward Councilwoman Jacqueline Johnson, who is not running for re-election.
“Gerard Georges filed under the name ‘Democrats for Progress’ in the 2nd Ward,” said Brown on Monday, April 1. “He’s the only one.”
Former East Orange Councilman and city Code Enforcement Director Dwight Saunders said he is running for former Essex County Freeholder Lebby Jones’ seat on the Board of Chosen Freeholders, currently occupied by Romaine Graham, at the top of the Progressive Democrats ticket, to challenge the local East Orange Democratic Committee and Essex County Democratic Committee led by Chairman Leroy Jones and the rest of the Line A Democrats “across the board.”
Saunders said he and Carol Clark, the former East Orange Councilwoman and Essex County Freeholder running on the East Orange Progressive Democrats ticket for the county register of deeds, are challenging the East Orange Democratic Committee and the Essex County Democratic Committee in every primary election race, in order to increase their chances of winning. The county register of deeds post is currently occupied by former Newark Councilwoman Dana Rone, who is not running for re-election.
Prospective 4th Ward candidate Naimah Hall’s last-minute decision to pull out in the wake of the March 17 shooting death of her son, Rashawn Simmons, may have upset their strategy, but Saunders said appearances can be deceiving.
“Everybody filed, except Naimah,” said Saunders on Tuesday, April 2. “We’ve got a person in every ward. We got a substitute candidate to run in the 4th Ward. Her name is Simone Jelks-Bandison and she filed yesterday, so we’re ready to go.”
Saunders said, as far as he is concerned, the Democratic Party primary season has officially begun, even though Brown said it’s still technically unofficial, until her office reviews and certifies all of the petitions that were submitted.
“The petitions will be available for review on Tuesday, April 2,” Brown said. “Objections to petitions must be filed by April 5, 4 p.m.”
Saunders said his team is confident all of their petitions will be approved and certified.
“We opened up campaign headquarters right next to 70 City Hall Plaza. I’m going to be hanging a sign out there,” said Saunders. “I think we’ve got everything we need. We’re ready. We got all the signatures we need. They tried intimidation and threatening people on the team to drop off, but I kept them focused. It’s sad what they’re trying to do.”
The incumbent council members seeking re-election and their prospective running mates are running on the Green Team in 2019 ticket, with the support of the East Orange Democratic Committee and Essex County Democratic Committee. According to their campaign manager, Rasheida Smith, they filed their petitions with Brown’s office Monday, March 25.
“The Green Team in ‘19 candidates for East Orange City Council are excited to have collectively filed almost 4,000 petition signatures,” said Smith on Monday, March 25. “Each signature represents a resident that has expressed their issues, concerns and hopes for East Orange.”
Johnson and 3rd Ward Councilwoman Quilla Talmadge have already endorsed Claybrooks and Pullins to succeed them on the council. Mayor Ted Green, described by Smith as “a staunch supporter of each candidate,” also endorsed the tickets that bears his name. Green will be up for re-election in 2021.
“The effort given by all the Green Team candidates for collecting petition signatures was amazing,” said Green on Monday, March 25. “This team put up record-breaking numbers and it shows how serious we are about getting things done. Our goal for this city is progress and I am looking forward to working with the Green Team candidates to obtain that goal.”