Latest Orange debates see only one candidate appear

ORANGE, NJ — Incumbent Councilwoman Tency Eason was the only candidate to show up for the debate scheduled for Monday, April 9, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., at the Orange Public Library. She is being challenged by Sharief Williams, a youth basketball coach, for the North Ward council seat.

“It was just me. The other guy didn’t show up,” said Eason on Tuesday, April 10. “He’s never attended any meetings or affairs that we’ve had. He hasn’t done anything and now he just jumps up and wants to run for public office.”

“If you’re going to run, do it because you’re running,” continued Eason. “Don’t bring up negative stuff. What’s done is done. Let’s move forward.”

According to an email blast the city sent out weeks ago and fliers posted on social media, the remaining debates sponsored by Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren and the Orange Peer Youth Council will take place on Mondays, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., at the Orange Public Library. The next one is scheduled for South Ward candidates Monday, April 16, when incumbent Councilwoman Jamie Summers-Johnson will be challenged by newcomer Brandon Matthews. That will be followed by an East Ward debate Monday, April 23, when Council President Kerry Coley will taken on challenger Dawan Alford, a community activist and co-founder of a nonprofit organization. A West Ward debate is set for Monday, April 30, when incumbent Councilman Harold Johnson will be challenged by former Councilman Hassan Abdul-Rasheed and Michael Scott.

Eason said she understands why the Orange Peer Youth Council is planning the debates.

“The forums are part of this youth group’s community service and the mayor supported that. He’s like their mentor,” Eason said. “One of the guys has a 4.0 (grade-point average) and another has a 3.8. These are kids that are struggling in families with households that have a mama that’s working all the time. I commended those young people, because they gave up their night and came out and asked questions. Why wouldn’t the mayor support that?”

Eason said she supports young people, too.

“That’s why I went last night,” she continued. “I told them to keep up the good work. It’s called the Mayor’s Mentoring Group.”

However, Eason added that debates should be unnecessary if an elected official is really doing their job, and she said the same goes for prospective candidates.

“I go door to door in my ward, so if people have an issue, I’m going to address it right there,” Eason said. “They can call me because they know if they call me, I’m coming. We’re not getting a lot of complaints. People are happy with the ward. Some people just like to turn things into a negative.”

According to Johnson, the debates sponsored by Warren and the Orange Peer Youth Council aren’t the only being offered in East Orange.

“A group of citizens has organized an Independent Citizen-Sponsored Debate Series for candidates running for City Council,” said Johnson on Monday, April 9. “They just had their first one for the West Ward on Sunday, April 8, and I was the only candidate that showed up. Neither of my opponents came out to the forum, even though we were all invited, so even though it was supposed to be for the West Ward council seat, it turned into a town hall-type of meeting, because there were people there from all over the city, not just the West Ward.”

According to Johnson and a document posted on the Orange NJ Real Talk Facebook page, the remaining debates sponsored by the Independent Citizen-Sponsored Debate Series are set for Sunday, April 15, for the East Ward candidates; Sunday, April 22, for the North Ward candidates; and Sunday, April 29, for the South Ward candidates, all from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Seventh Day Adventist Church, 270 Reynolds Terrace, Orange.