Campaign enters home stretch before Democratic primary

IRVINGTON, NJ — With less than a month to go until the Democratic primary on Tuesday, June 4, former Irvington Board of Education President and current Essex County Freeholder Romaine Graham’s campaign to win the freeholder seat occupied by Lebby Jones, the former at large Municipal councilwoman and Team Irvington social and political organization co-founder, is entering the homestretch.

According to Essex County clerk Chris Durkin, Graham is running for the at large freeholder seat on Line 4A on the ballot against former East Orange Councilman and Code Enforcement Director Dwight Saunders, who is Line 4B.

Durkin said he held the drawing on Friday, April 12, for ballot positions and it’s “Line A all the way” for Graham and the incumbent members of the Irvington Democratic Committee and the Essex County Democratic Committee.

According to Durkin and East Orange city clerk Cynthia Brown, Saunders and the majority of challengers are running together on the East Orange Progressive Democrats ticket on Line B.

Every other Democrat is running on Line C, while Republican candidates are running on line D in the Republican primary on the same date.

“Line A, Essex Democrats,” said Brown on Tuesday, May 7. “Line B, Progressives. Line C, Democrats for Progress — one person, Gerald Georges.”

Saunders and former East Orange Councilwoman and Essex County Freeholder Carol Clark organized the East Orange Progressive Democrats ticket. Clark is running for the county register of deeds post currently occupied by former Newark Councilwoman Dana Rone.

Clark is running on Line 3B against Juan M. Rivera of the Essex County Democratic Committee on Line 3A. Republicans Adam Kraemer and Kristina Christoforou are running for county register and Jones’ old Freeholder seat, respectively, on the Essex Republican Party Organization ticket. Kraemer is Line 3D and Christoforou is Line 4D.

“I am with Ro,” said former Irvington Board of Education member Jamillah Beasley-McCleod, one of Graham’s fellow former board members, who is also the daughter of D. Bilal Beasley, the former Municipal Council president and Essex County freeholder, on Monday, March 18. “I’m looking forward to working with her, too.”

Mayor Tony Vauss and the rest of Graham’s Team Irvington Strong social and political organization teammates have been wearing custom-designed hooded sweatshirts that have become the face of her campaign; they have her face printed on them, along with the words: “I’m with Ro.” Team Irvington was the forerunner of the Team Irvington Strong organization that counts both Beasley-McCleod and Graham as members.

Vauss is known in some circles as the “new media mayor” for his innovative use of social media, traditional media and the Internet during his successful mayoral run in 2014 and afterward. Now Vauss has done the same thing with the “I’m with Ro” hoodies and he said his branding and merchandising is not going to stop there.

“I can give you one,” said Vauss on Tuesday, March 19.

Graham said she’s running in the primary to help improve the county and to carry on the legacies of Lebby Jones and D. Bilal Beasley.

“It’s exciting,” she said Thursday, Feb. 21. “Everybody’s on board. Everybody’s excited. I don’t have enough hoodies for everybody, but they’re all ‘With Ro,’ so that’s good.”

Saunders said he’s running against Graham because he wants to “help make Essex County a great place to live, work and raise a family.”