25 Municipal Chairs to Watch (in November, and Beyond)

Linden Mayor Derek Armstead sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito asking for an investigation into business dealings between Parktowne Associates, which is owned by Union County Manager Ed Oatman and Union County Democratic Committee Executive Director Nick Fixmer, and various campaigns and publicly funded interests.

1.Brian Stack, Union City

As mayor/33rd District state senator and municipal party chairman, Stack has his Hudson County city on total lock-down and can at any time employ – depending on what is necessary – either a Tysonesque political mean streak, or Bill Musto-like mystique. Where he stands in the battle between Gov. Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) – as he gingerly negotiates his caucus while also staying close to Murphy (Hudson as a whole is close to the governor) has bellwether implications.

Chairman Jones, left.

2. Leroy Jones, East Orange

Jones – who doubles as chairman of the Essex County Democratic Committee and has his eyes on the Democratic Party chairmanship of New Jersey – doubles as local muni chair in one of Essex County’s biggest towns. As Essex goes, so goes the state.

Cryan, left, and Brendan Gill.

3. Joe Cryan, Union Twp.

The 20th District state senator has occupied the local Democratic Committee throne for over 20 years. He runs an impressive GOTV operation that has gotten LD20 establishment Dems out of more than a few close scraps over the years, notably in 2011, when Cryan’s Union Twp. offset big numbers from the insurrection in Elizabeth. In addition to on-the-ground heft, as a senator he has a key cloakroom say in the direction of statewide power.


4. Gina LaPlaca, Lumberton

Resident of a GOP stronghold town (home to BurlCo GOP Chair Sean Earlen), the co-chair of the local Democratic Party (with Randy Brolo) is running for an assembly seat on a ticket with Mark Natale in LD8 against incumbent Republican Assemblyman Ryan Peters and Peters’s running mate Jean Stanfield.

5. Brendan Gill, Montclair

Leader of one of New Jersey’s most progressive towns, Gill – President of the Essex County Freeholder Board – is the political minder of Governor Phil Murphy and was the late U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg’s state director.

6. Peter Carton, Middletown

Monmouth has a true convention, which makes the chair of this big town important. One of the most powerful and influential municipal party chairs in the state, Republican kingmaker Carton controls the county committee in his hometown.


7. Patricia “Pat” Sebold, Livingston

The Democratic freeholder is very active politically, politically in the Jewish and progressive communities, and a critical power point in the political fortress otherwise known as the base of U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11).

8. Lynne Hurwitz, Hackensack

Bergen County’s other feisty Jewish grandmother, Hurwitz is the Democratic Party’s GOTV phone bank pharaoh, and occupies that space one must pass in order to get the support of the party in the county seat of voter-rich Bergen. She’ll be key for U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5) next year.

9. Liz DeBeer, Fair Haven

Only one Democrat on the Council but the town is moving forwards Democrats. Hillary Clinton won the town and (CD4 loser) Josh Welle won it by 14 points. Local Republicans have been battling national trends in town. More importantly, DeBeer was a prominent (CD4 loser) Jim Keady supporter, and is now the head of the CD4 Search Committee. She is not backing Keady a second time and is leaning towards a woman candidate, sources say. Powerful.

North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, right, and Gonzalez, in gear for ally Amador.

10. Samuel “Sammy” Gonzalez, Newark

The North Ward politico serves as North Ward Democratic Committee chairman, inheritor of the Fran Adubato mantle and husband of state Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29).

11. Derek Armstead, Linden

The Mayor of the Union County city (pictured, top) this year wrangled control of the local Democratic Party organization away from state Senator Nick Scutari (D-22), his dreaded political rival.

12. Tony Teixeira, Elizabeth

The chief of staff to state Senator Scutari occupies the Democratic Chairmanship of Union County’s most populous town, critical for the boss, who serves as chair of the Union County Democratic Organization despite lacking control of his home town of Linden.

Edison Democratic Committee Chairman Shariq Ahmad in the scrum.

13. Shariq Ahmed, Edison

The chair of the Edison Democratic Committee represents cutting edge millennial thinking within a largely stagnant political superstructure.


14. Adrian Mapp, Plainfield

On his worst days, the kingmaker Mayor of the Queen City at least has the historical proximity of the extraordinary musical cannon of late native son Bill Evans.

15. JoAnn Neylan, Westfield

All eyes are on the local GOP chair who now has on her shoulders the reelection of Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-21) in a Trump era battleground 21st.

16. Jimmy Davis, Bayonne

The mayor’s 2018 stare-down of tough nut challenger Jason O’Donnell put him in a strong position locally. The ultimate local bread and butter guy, he was able to do what Mark Smith couldn’t do: win reelection by remaining politically focused on Bayonne.

Amato, left, and Bob Hugin.

17. Carmen F. Amato, Jr., Berkeley

The chair of the local Republican Party here is the man to go through locally for GOP candidates looking for key building blocks of power in Ocean County. Amato will be critical for any Republican trying to build toward a 2020 challenge of U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (D-3).

Salters on Election Day

18. Anthony Salters,  Hillside

The town is a mess politically and subject to the chopping blocks of several chest-thumping prone bosses beyond its borders, but the savvy Salters remains viable in part because of even worse political fracturing in Union beyond his borders.

19. Rupa Motwani, Westfield
The chair of the local Democratic Committee has a battle coming as she tries to put her LD21 candidates, Lisa Mandleblatt and Stacey Gunderman, in office in a legislative battleground. a key test.

20. Jim Rilee, Roxbury

Like his party ally in Washington, former Assemblyman Guy Gregg, Republican Chair Rilee will be key for turnout in support of the LD25 anchored by incumbent Republican Assemblyman Tony Bucco (R-25), who craves big turnout to offset likely Dem wins in places like Morristown, Morris Township and Dover

21. Phillip Warren, Evesham

The Evesham Democratic Committee chair is Levenson’s opposition as he backs LD8 Democratic challengers Gina LaPlaca and Mark Natale. In a word: effective.

22. Frank Pallone, Long Branch
One of the most powerful House Members and brother of the most powerful elected individual in Long Branch, Mayor John Pallone. He also has a state senator he relies on who lives in Long Branch, Vin Gopal.
23. Joe Grillo, Asbury Park
BOE Member, well-respected in town, and, like Pallone (above) in ground zero protective mode as incumbent Democratic Party assembly-people Eric Houghtaling and Joanne Downey seek reelection in a battleground district.

24. Helmin Caba, Perth Amboy

Prez candidate U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and the Middlesex County Democratic Organization have a friend in Caba in the 7-1 Democratic advantage town. He’s interesting in part because Mayor Wilda Diaz broke away from the establishment party pack to back Bernie Sanders for president in 2020.

25. Pat Council, Newark

The South Ward Democratic Party chair serves as Mayor Ras Baraka’s political eyes and ears in the mayor’s home ward base.

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