ORANGE, NJ — In advance of the May 12 election, a forum for Orange’s mayoral candidates took place, via Facebook Live, on Tuesday, April 28. Six candidates, including incumbent Mayor Dwayne Warren, are competing for the position. Challengers are Michael Jean Baptiste, Shawn Hunter, Councilman Christopher Jackson, Rayfield R. Morton and Councilwoman Donna K. Williams. This year’s election will take place via voting by mail; due to COVID-19, polling places will not be open. All registered voters living in Orange should already have received ballots in the mail. The ballots must be mailed back to the county with a postmark no later than May 12.
All six candidates were invited to the forum, but only four participated: Warren, Jackson, Williams and Hunter.
For the hourlong forum, the candidates gave opening and closing statements; in between, they each answered three questions, which were presented by the Orange HUUB forum moderators. All responses were timed.
Williams, recently recovered from the coronavirus, delivered the first opening statement.
“My name is Donna K. Williams, and I am asking everyone to cast their vote for an honest, fair, critical thinker and ethical leader to be your first female mayor of the city of Orange Township. This is not a time for negative politics as usual. This is a time to reimagine, to collaborate and rebuild the community we love so much. This pandemic has brought my 12-year, people-first agenda to the forefront. My legislative initiatives focusing on economic, civil and human rights are even more critical now to create an equitable and just environment for our great city.”
Next with her opening statement was Hunter.
“I’m running for mayor because I want transparency,” Hunter said. “I am running for mayor because of my burning passion to see Orange, N.J., as a thriving community once again. I’m seeking the office of mayor because of my desire for stabilized property taxes, decreasing foreclosures and ending corruption within the city of Orange. I can be of great assistance to many of our citizens, utilizing my professional experience of more than 30 years in finance and real estate. Being the only mayoral candidate with a strong finance background, I am currently pursuing a law degree — both benefiting Orange’s residents. My plans also include generating new municipal revenue and exploring options to reopen the YMCA, a broken promise in the past years. Our children deserve to have a place to develop their social skills, interacting in different programs, sports and other affairs. We deserve a city with good return of investment and consideration of all residents.”
Up next with his opening statement was Jackson.
“I am an Orange native and a product of Orange public schools. I’m running to bring more integrity and for my love of Orange,” Jackson said. “I think I can be a unifying force and we will be stronger, so long as we have each ward, the administration, the council and the citizens working together to bring progress to Orange going forward. It is a very important town, and we need to project that as a unified force, providing unified focus as we move forward into the 21st century.”
Warren, Orange’s current mayor, delivered his opening remarks last, stressing how important it is to have someone who is experienced in the role.
“This is an important measure that we take so all of our citizens will know who they’re choosing in their government,” Warren said. “I come to you with 30 years of legal experience, having served in every capacity in municipal governments. I was the municipal court judge; I’ve served with the city council as a legislative research officer; advocated on the state, federal and county level for the city of Orange Township; and brought a measure of change. If you drive around the city of Orange, you’ll see change all about, you’ll see progress.
“We have pulled our children into our progressive agenda, our senior citizens, our homeowners, and we’ve provided an opportunity for all people to live and seek housing across the spectrum so that we all can be involved in Orange’s change,” he continued. “Now, more than ever, we need experienced leadership, and this is not the time for inexperienced people or people who don’t have the knowledge. We want to stay in it so that Orange can complete its transformation.”
Baptiste and Morton, who did not participate in the forum, were contacted by the Record-Transcript but declined to comment.