ORANGE, NJ — The United Clergy of the Oranges has organized and sponsored a Mayoral Candidates Forum on Wednesday, April 6, at 6:30 p.m. at Orange United Methodist Church, on the corner of Park Avenue and North Day Street, for the three candidates running for mayor in the nonpartisan municipal election on Tuesday, May 10.
Pastor Prescott Butler, who will be hosting the event, said Monday, March 28, “I’m a member of the United Clergy of the Oranges. When Mayor Warren ran the first time, we had a forum. What we’re trying to do is to have an open forum for the candidates. So far, we have three confirmed: Mayor Dwayne Warren, East Ward Councilman Kerry Coley and Janice Morrell.”
Butler said the forum will be free and open to all members of the Orange public. He also said it’s mainly for the three mayoral candidates, though two are running with full slates of at-large candidates.
According to Orange City Clerk Joyce Lanier, there are three candidates vying for mayor and 13 candidates competing for the three at-large seats on the Orange City Council. The drawing to determine the individual and group candidates’ positions on the ballot was Monday, March 7, and, as a result, Warren is 1A, Morrell is 2A and Coley is 3A.
The at large candidates are: Andrea Elliott, 4B; Sharief Williams, 5B; former at large Councilman at Large Rayfield Morton, 6B; Merlin Hackett, 7B; Joseph Juliano, 8B; Ashley Cartwright, 9B; Adrienne Wooten, 10B; April Gaunt-Butler, 11B; Elroy Corbitt, 12B; Donna K. Williams, 13B; Christopher Jackson, 14B; Vanessa Arroyave, 15B; and Jeffrey Wingfield, 16B.
Coley’s Orange Home Team slate includes Donna Williams, Jackson and Arroyave. Morrell is running with Elliot, Sharief Williams and Morton on the Change We Need Voice We Deserve ticket.
As the Record-Transcript went to press this week, Warren was listed running for re-election alone. His campaign slogan is, “Moving Orange Forward,” the same as Wingfield, who happens to be his cousin and the brother of current Orange Public Works Department Supervisor Raymond Wingfield.
The other at-large candidates are unaffiliated independents. Butler said the crowded field of candidates is another reason the United Clergy of the Oranges is hosting the forum.
“We’re hoping that they will bring their slates with them, but the intent of the forum is for the mayoral candidates,” said Butler on Monday, March 28. “We invite them all. Depending on how it goes will determine whether or not all of them get to speak.”
Butler said the separation of church and state in American democracy is a good thing, but that churches have congregations composed of residents who vote and pay taxes to support the community, which means the clergy also has a stake in politics.
“We’re not actually getting into politics; we’re just providing a forum,” said Butler. “If a politician came to our church on Sunday during service, we probably would let them speak to the congregation. If the churches don’t get involved, then they have to accept whatever comes into office.”
Butler said, “Voting is the voice of the people. It’s open to all residents of the city. I want them to be able to get enough information, in order to make an informed vote. When you vote, you get to chart the direction of the city. Other than the vote, we don’t have much power, do we?”
Frank Audain, a member of Orange United Methodist Church, said he would definitely attend the forum on Wednesday, April 6, because he interested in the city’s future.
“I am interested in having the residents of Orange become more informed,” said Audain on Monday, March 28. “As a congregation, we’re not favoring or endorsing anyone. We want the community to know about the food pantry and the other things we’re doing in the community, too. And we want the community to come out and find out how these candidates can be of help to them in the future, if they get elected.”
The Rev. Al Platt of Nia Baptist Church in Orange, who is the president of the United Clergy of the Oranges, could not be reached for comment about this forum by press time this week.